Baby Succulents??!

I sort of slowly grew into loving plants. I would be shopping for groceries and happen to walk through their garden section. If you’re anything like me then you would’ve found succulents through the same method.  Succulents are a very trendy category of plants that have been on the rise for the last couple of years.  You’ll see them at trendy restaurants, on Instagram and Pinterest, and usually in their own little section at stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and various plant nurseries.

What is a succulent?  A succulent is a plant that is natively found in extreme climates and soil.  They make do with these rough circumstances by storing water in their thick and fleshy leaves and stems.

Some of the more popular varieties are: Jade, Aloe, Echeveria, Sedum, Hawthoria, and Kalanchoe.

A couple of months into my succulent journey, I was told that I could grow my own succulent baby plants. I was like, “say what?!!! No way!!”

It’s true!  You can take a leaf from most succulents and with the right environment (and a little big of luck thrown in for good measure) end up with a new baby plant!


Step 1: Pick out a succulent leaf from a succulent that you’d like to propagate. The best leaves are ones that look healthy, aren’t at the very top of the plant, and are capable of being broken off cleanly from the stem.


Step 2: Place the leaf somewhere and leave it be for a couple of days.  This allows the tip of the leaf to callous over. The callous prevents the leaf from rotting in the later steps when you need to dampen the soil in order to help the new baby plant grow roots and leaves of its own.


Step 3: Place the calloused leaf on top of soil. Don’t burry it in the soil or stick it half in and half out of the soil.  Just simply lay it down vertically directly onto the soil.


Step 4: Mist the soil once a day or once every other day (depending on the humidity inside of your home (or wherever you are keeping your container).  Although succulents don’t normally like daily misting, while they are propagating they need water for the roots and new rosettes to form properly.


Step 5: Set your pot of soil and leaves (assuming you try this with more than one leaf) in some place that will receive bright indirect light.  New succulent plants cannot tolerate direct light at first.  So start out somewhere where your leaves won’t get hit by a bright beam of sunshine.  Once they’ve started developing rosettes and roots you can slowly acclimate them to sunshine by putting them in light for only an hour or two of sunlight.  Gradually over the span of a couple weeks you can slowly let them have more hours of sunlight per day. But don’t worry about that at first.  Bright indirect light is perfect.


Step 6: Once your leaves start to wither up, you can gently pull up the leaf and replant it in its own pot.


Step 7: Have fun! 🙂 With enough patience, care, and luck, you’ll soon have your own beautiful set of baby succulents to enjoy and share with your friends (if you can manage to part with any of your new babies).

~ Lilibet


My Garden (originally posted on separate blog)

Welcome to my garden! My name is Lilibet and I’m excited to show you around.

I began gardening almost 4 years ago when I was in college.  I lived in a dorm, but that didn’t stop me! I quickly learned that you can garden almost anywhere as long as you have the right tools and some creativity.

Here are some photos of my first plant babies. ^_^

A lysimachia plant

A dieffenbachia plant

An aloe plant

A pothos plant from my friend, Amal

I also had a tiny ivy (not pictured) and a small lucky bamboo plant (not pictured).  They made my dorm room so much happier and helped me get through college.

Then I moved,  down south, to an entirely new planting zone (7-8).  I left Indiana (6) and Illinois (5-6) for the much warmer weather of Georgia. I also adopted a cat.  Which meant I had to keep my plants safe from my cat (or vice versa).

My cat, Rory, when he was ~3 months old

There was this beautiful tree out by the entrance to our apartment (did I mention I also love trees?!)

Beautiful tree

I didn’t take many photos (if any?!) of my plants at my first apartment, but once I moved again, I had gotten to the point where I had over 25 plants.

My plant “section” in our bedroom, safe from the cat

I even bought a cute little tree wall hanging to put behind it.  It felt like my own little piece of heaven.  I had spider plant, pothos, lucky bamboo, aloe, peperomia, calanchoe, etc.

I even grew this beauty in honor of my Grandma (still alive). She always had bleeding hearts in her garden when I was little, and it stuck out to me.

Bleeding heart plant

I moved some of my plants out on the apartment balcony whenever the weather was warm enough.  Sometimes Rory would come out and help me garden.

Balcony plants

Rory helping mommy garden

Then I went and rescued another cat, haha, ooooooops!!

My second baby, Jade. :3

And then I discovered succulents. :O  And succulent leaf propagation (which is AMAZING).  And I was even more plant ‘hooked’.

Sunbathing succulents

Current succulent leaf propagation project

Inbetween caring for my cats, plants, and my relationship with my fiancé, I also found time to photograph local trees, flowers, and nature whenever I was out and about. And when Halloween rolled around, I did a butterfly themed ‘Trunk or Treat’.

My butterfly themed ‘Trunk or Treat’

A beautiful spider web I found while dog sitting

Mushrooms in front of the post office

Sophie sitting by a beautiful flowering tree

A friend recommended I check out a local plant nursery. I spent the first fifteen minutes walking around the nursery with my jaw dropped.  It was the most beautiful store I had ever seen!  I started working there a couple months later.

I did a count two months ago and I had over 100 indoor houseplants.

I’m going to do another count in the next week or two and update you because I’ve bought at least 30+ plants since that count. My fiancé tells me our bedroom looks like a jungle. I think it looks like heaven.  🙂

This blog (and the corresponding YouTube channel) will share all sorts of plant related things – general info, my personal plant projects, tutorials, horticulture info (as I study for my GA Plant Professional license), my plant failures (yes, I do lose plants), and everything else you can think of.  I hope you’ll come join me and have fun with me as we get our hands dirty and learn how to keep things alive.

Yours truly,


Church Secrets, Part 2

note: this post contains some names that were changed to protect the people mentioned.  Any name with an asterisk [*] next to it has been changed.  This is part 2 in a series.  You can find part 1 here.

IMG_5267I shared the gist of the letter with my family at a shared meal.  They immediately defended the pastor and the church elders saying that perhaps it was simply how our denomination operated, and that I should check the book of church order to see what I could find there.  So I went upstairs after lunch and did a google search and began skimming the book (which was online for easy access) to find anything relevant.

Unbeknownst to me, one of my sisters decided she would help me out by e-mailing the pastor my question.  She carbon copied me in the e-mail.  Below I have the entire e-mail history, only taking out things that would hurt the anonymity of my sister and family.

Hello Pastor John*,                                                         March 12, 2015  11:28 AM

I have a question for you.

When a member leaves the church (local church), is there a set protocol (from the Small Reformed Church* book of Church order) that the leadership takes in dealing with the member? Elizabeth has been looking for the answer in the book of Church order, but hasn’t found anything yet.

We are trying to understand why things happened the way they did with a lot of our friends who have left SRC, and wanted to see if we could find some answers.

Let me know your thoughts when you have a moment. 🙂

In Him,

Meanwhile, I had found the answers I was searching for.  Most of what was in the letter was called for as a part of our denominations rules.  (if you want to read the specifics look here (sections 46.1-4 and 38.3b and 38.4).

                                                                                               March 12, 2015  12:48 PM
The quick answer (and I’d be happy to go through it more detailed in person if you like) is that the BCO (chap 37?) details how we should handle people leaving a local church.

If they a) go to another Bible believing, gospel preaching church we transfer them, if they b) go to an apostate or heretical church we call them back, or c) if they just stop coming to any church we call them back, and if they refuse, we warn them. In the last year (my tenure here), we’ve had people in all three categories.

Though we hate to see anyone leave, if people move to another church in situation A, we wish them well. If it is B or C, we have a duty to lovingly call them back, or urge them to A, because a person who moves to an apostate church, or breaks fellowship with the church permanently is a person who moves into a Matthew 18 category.

Again, I’m happy to talk to you, or your sister, about this in more detail in person, or Elizabeth can call me.

I may not be able to discuss every situation (as it wouldn’t be fair to the people involved) but I’m happy to speak as plainly and openly about any situation as I can.

See you soon.

John* Last Name

March 12, 2015  2:00 PM
I erred a moment ago because I was not at the office. I just looked up the appropriate chapters. Look at chapter 46.1-4 and chapter 38.3b and 38.4 for more.

Also, and I may be jumping the gun or getting this totally turned around, but in certain cases where people leave or break with a church, they may claim to have been mistreated, or may tell tales of woe. This may be the case. But, it may not. Often only portions of the truth are told.

Feel free to talk to me or the other elders if you or Elizabeth feel we have mistreated anyone. Though we are not perfect, in my time here, I’m happy to answer to you and ultimately to God for any action we’ve taken.

John* Last Name

March 12, 2015  3:49 PM
If you wanted to, another possible avenue would be for you to meet with the session if you have specific concerns. I would not want you or your sister or anyone at Small Reformed Church to feel we were hiding something from you.

Let me know if you or Elizabeth would be interested in that.

John* Last Name

During this time, I had spoken with two deacons’ wives and other families who had left.  I was planning on speaking with the elders families when I came back home again for summer break (I was on my spring break at this point).

As part of one of my classes (Speech Communications), I was assigned to interview my home pastor over spring break on the topic of church communications (ironic, right??).  My family was incredibly busy over my two-week spring break.  I wrote the pastor this e-mail hoping to be able to ask him my interview questions via e-mail.

Dear Pastor John*,                                                          March 17, 2015  10:13 PM

I wanted to write you about two things.  First, would you be willing to answer some questions for a school project I have?  It’s for a group project in my speech class.  My group choose to study and present on the topic of church communication.  As a group we decided that we would all “interview” our home church pastor’s and ask them some specifics that they had seen in their experience to help us with the project.  I would try to meet, but my break is almost over and it’s been crazy due to the play that Sister* and Sister* are in this weekend.  Let me know! Thanks. 🙂

Also, would it be possible to get an electronic or paper copy of the letter sent out to the church at the end of last November regarding the Doe* family?  I would really like to read it myself, and my parents no longer have their copy.

Thanks for your time,

Elizabeth Burger

He wrote me back within the hour, with this urgent response.

Elizabeth,                                                                           March 17, 2015  11:02 PM

I’m happy to meet with you and, in fact, I ask you to please juggle things to meet with me while you’re still in town.  I can make the time in the next 3 days to do that.

The reason I’d like so much to meet with you relates to what Sister* asked me last week on your behalf, and what I’ve learned about church communication. Things like this can go south quickly. I’m happy to meet and attempt to clear the air and hopefully avoid that outcome.

I respect you as an adult member of our church, I love you as a sister in Christ and I want to communicate with you as seamlessly, clearly, and honestly as possible.

As we don’t know each other that well, I would understand if you wanted another woman there. My wife, Elder 1’s Wife*, or Elder 2’s Wife* might be available to meet with us.

Let’s find a time to meet.

John* Last Name

During January, my counselor had recommended I read the book, Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  This letter was one of my first attempts to set my own boundaries with a person in authority.

                                                                                               March 18, 2015  1:17 PM
Thank you for your quick response.  I am actually only interested in meeting to do the interview for my class at this time.  For spring break I just need to talk about the class assignment and get your thoughts on specific questions that my group came up with.

I recognize the importance of talking about other things.  My mom and I don’t have a lot of time, but if you wanted to share anything about the church I would be willing to listen.  I do not have any specific questions for you at this time (regarding church things), but I would be happy to listen and not say or ask anything.  So if you wanted to speak to anything you feel is an issue I would be okay listening, but I will not take questions or speak from my perspective right now.  I am at an information gathering point right now.  So, if you want to share your story of any of the church things I will gladly listen and take note.  I would also like a copy of the letter that was sent to all of the church members.  I was 19 at the time, and separate from my family (away at college).  So I’d like a copy if you still have it anywhere on file, which should be easy enough.  If you’ve changed anything in the letter you’re more than welcome to speak to me about that when we meet, but I still want to see it for myself.

That paragraph was way too long, haha. 😀  Basically, my mom can meet anytime tonight after 6:05pm.  I realize this is not even in your regular office hours and it would take away time from your family.  But that is the only time she is able to meet and I’d like to meet with you with her there (as you mentioned yourself, it would be good to have someone else around).  We could meet for up to an hour of time if you’re available.

I’ll be checking my e-mail all throughout the day, so just let me know whenever you receive this and if you still want to meet and are available at the unusual time.  Oh, mom said we can meet anywhere in Small Town* that you’d like to meet.

In summary (if the above is too long to read): I’d love to interview you tonight at 6:05 (or later) and after the interview if you want to talk about any Small Reformed Church* stuff that has happened since you’ve been here, you’re welcome to share your perspective and I will listen.  I won’t talk about my perspective or answer questions, just listen.  We could meet for up to an hour for the interview and anything else.  I also want a copy of the letter sent to the church in November/December.  If we don’t meet today (due to it being a crazy time or other circumstance) I would still appreciate a copy of the letter on Sunday, when I come to church. And thank you for answering Sister’s* e-mails.

Thank you for your time,

Elizabeth Burger

This was his response.

Elizabeth,                                                                           March 18, 2015  2:43 PM

I will not be meeting with you tonight. I can’t agree to the terms you are setting out. Quite simply, it ignores our call to love one another and be in relationship.

I’m not sure where all of this is coming from, but your response seems to be extremely disrespectful and accusatory. I’m not sure what I’ve done to warrant that tone, and you say you are unwilling to speak to it. I’ve tried to invite you in to discuss whatever concerns you have adult to adult, but you are unwilling. If at a later point you would like to speak adult to adult, please let me know. Adults in loving Christian relationship have dialogue. They ask and answer questions. They disagree and discuss. When you’re ready for that, please let me know. I’d welcome it.

The best I can do at this point is get you a copy of the letter as you’ve requested that the session sent to the congregation. Send me your school address and I will be sure a copy is mailed to you. I’ll make sure your info is included in the next directory.

No matter what, I hope and pray that the Lord will bless you in every way.

John* Last Name


Let’s just breathe for a second before we  process this letter.

He told me that, “I respect you as an adult member of our church,” and then one e-mail letter, when I no longer met his requirements for how adults communicate, he was no longer willing to speak to me “adult to adult”.  He also became hyper defensive and blamed me of being extremely disrespectful and accusatory.  I’ll grant that my letter was poorly written, and quite wordy.

Sometimes adults also listen to other people (who says this is only for adults?  children are people too) and don’t give their opinions right then and there.  Sometimes we give people space to share.  Sometimes we dialogue.  Sometimes we debate.  Sometimes we sit silently together.  There are many forms of “adult” (really, all people) communication.  What do you think we did every Sunday at your church, pastor John???  You stand up front and talk to us, and we do not respond (verbally) at all.  We sit quietly and usually listen and take notes.

I’m sorry that you did not think I was worth being in a loving relationship with (does that sound creepy to you at all?!) because I wasn’t ready to state my own thoughts on the church secrets.  Well, now I am.  More on this later, but I will now be seen as someone who is gossiping and destroying the “purity” of the church.

My question is this: If the church is actually pure, why do we hide in the shadows and the darkness?  Why do we threaten people?  Why do we force our own definitions of things onto them?  Where is the love that is talked about so much?

In Memory of Michael

CW: sexual abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse.  Post contains graphic descriptions and links.

Flowers I picked and arranged for him in ’13

He taught me how to play Reversi.

His favorite color was blue.

His birthday was in February.

He was in a great deal of pain.




He was cynical.


He did not believe in a god, gods, or God.

He was very broken.

I thought I could fix him.

Heal some of his pain.

I was his friend.

Knowingly, or unknowingly, he groomed and manipulated me.  He abused me.




But still.  I wanted his love.  His acceptance.

I changed my hair style for him.

I recorded myself playing songs on the piano for him.

I went through every day thinking about what I would share with him later.

How I would make my day sound interesting to him.

How to avoid topics that would cause him to think I was stupid.

I went to him with my questions about sex.

He was always throwing sexual innuendos around, so I knew he would talk to me about it.

He’s the first person I asked about orgasms.

They had always eluded me, and I wanted to know what I was missing.

He asked me to sleep naked in my bed for him one night.

I did it, despite the fact that I shared my room with a much younger sibling and someone might find out.

My care for him grew.

I convinced myself that I was falling for him romantically.

Despite the fact that I was not physically attracted to him at all.

He offered me a deal.  He said we couldn’t keep messing around.

Either I had to say no, or I could agree to be his sub.

Michael lived an ocean away from me.

We never met in person.

We talked over Skype twice.

I almost said yes.

I remember pacing the upstairs floor of a church building during a dress rehearsal the week before a major musical.

I knew I should say no.

I was at war with myself.

But a little part of me, which gradually grew bigger, wanted to know more.

img_0554Wanted to see if I could be a sub.

Wanted to feel love.

Wanted someone to care about her.

I had a very deep fear that no one would ever love me.

I didn’t think I was beautiful or worth loving.

I wanted to feel.

But I was terrified.

Another online friend listened and helped me say no.

I am forever grateful to that friend.

I said no.

I blocked him.

I didn’t hear from him again.

That was in May of 2013.

Now, in October of 2016, I go searching once more.

Because I want to share this old part of my life with my boyfriend.

So that he will know what I went through.

So that he will understand.

And I find an article.

Michael is dead.

He died in November 2013.

All of those years at college where I had panic attacks whenever I saw anyone who even remotely looked like him.

All those years being terrified that he would show up one day on my doorstep.

All of those counseling sessions trying to work through the poison he left in my mind.

He died of cancer.

Cancer in his lungs and brain.

He didn’t die alone, though.  His father and brother were there with him.

I__________4754916 grieve for him and I am sad.

He was in so much pain.

I hope that he is in heaven.

I hope that he is finally able to accept love.

To know real love.

And to be able to give it to others.

I hope he is finally at peace.


But still I rise; {Letters, Introduction}

Source: Image links to source.

I won’t just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can’t write my story
I’m beyond the archetype

– Katy Perry, Rise

When I dropped out of college they wrote me letters.  When I moved away from home they wrote me letters.   They still write me letters sometimes.

Friends, family members, acquaintances, classmates, friends of my parents, and others – people who decided to try and write my story for me.  People who wanted me to fit the image they had of me in their minds.  People who were not comfortable when I began to discover myself.  People who wanted me to go back into their little boxes – the boxes I had always allowed them to put me in.  The boxes I thought were me.

I won’t just conform
No matter how you shake my core
‘Cause my roots—they run deep, oh

Oh, ye of so little faith
Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Victory is in my veins
I know it, I know it
And I will not negotiate
I’ll fight it, I’ll fight it
I will transform

Some letters came handwritten, with beautiful flowing script.  Others were typed out and sent through Facebook.  All of them hurt.  More than one person asked where the “cheerful, happy, old you” went.  They cut deep.

When, when the fire’s at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They’re whispering, “You’re out of time,”
But still I rise

My goal is to share some of these letters with you alongside of my thoughts, comments, and responses.  This will help me process through them, and maybe help you with similar letters or messages you’ve received from loved ones.

This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in
Think again
Don’t be surprised
I will still rise

I will make it through this.  I will rise and I will grow and heal – despite what people think and say to and about me.

Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Oh, oh, oh, oh
You know it, you know it
Still rise
Just fight it, just fight it
Don’t be surprised
I will still rise



img_2423I don’t wanna be the first one folding
I don’t wanna be the joker heart
Tell me, darling, will you understand me?
And not show me your cards?

‘Cause I’m paper-thin
And you, you make me whole again

So hold me
Wrap me in love, fill up my cup
Empty and only your love can fill up my cup
‘Cause I’m hollow
Yeah, I’m hollow, oh, oh, oh
‘Cause I’m hollow
Yeah, I’m hollow, oh, oh, oh

– Tori Kelly, Hollow

Everything hurts.  Pain.  Tears.  Fog.  My head feels like it’s overflowing with tears.  With pain that I only hope will come out when the tears spill.  So much pain.

I started looking for a new job or jobs this past week.  Because food service is slowly sucking away my life, joy, and energy.  Day by day.  Hour by hour.  Minute by minute.  It’s been four whole months.

Four months.  Seems so short, doesn’t it?  But it isn’t.  I don’t know how much longer I can go on.  I come home exhausted.  I count down the hours and minutes until I can leave.  I love my coworkers, but… but I want to be anywhere else.  I miss children.  I light up whenever a child walks into the restaurant with their parent(s).  I need their free spirit and joy of life.  Their curiosity and honesty.  Their playfulness and openness.

I live paycheck to paycheck.  Barely.  But I’m living.  And it’s okay.  If I take this new babysitting job, I will have a slightly lower income.  And if I report my income to the government I will be taxed for self-employment (which is a pretty hefty tax percentage).  So technically I’ll be worse off.  But I’ll be doing something I love.  And investing in a little human.  A little girl who I can love on.  Who I can be creative with. Who I can talk to.  And give kisses to.  And feed.  And take for walks.  And share the world with her.

I don’t want to keep living this way.  Barely making enough to pay my bills and not really making enough to save much ever.  But I have food.  I have a place to stay.

I don’t know a lot of stuff.  I can’t plan everything in stone.  I can’t think through every situation and what could or might happen.  I moved here in a whirlwind.  I thought I’d move with no money and with no job set up.  I ended up with money, because my school refunded me some for my medical withdrawal.  But I couldn’t even tell my parents that because they would take it.  That’s painful to think of.  Painful to share.  Painful to know they will read my blog someday and see this.  And maybe they would’ve let me keep it, but who knows.  The fact that I doubt them sort of says enough for me.

I wish someone would hold me.  I’m overwhelmed.  I don’t know how to handle everything.  Life is really really hard.  I’m tired.  My soul is tired.  I wish I had been filled with love and safety in my childhood.  That I’d have that to rely on now.  But I don’t.  And I have to carry on anyways.  I have to survive.  To rise above that.  To learn to love myself.  To learn to let people love me.  It’s so hard.  Why does everything have to be so hard?  Why couldn’t I have been raised better.  All of this pain wouldn’t be here if things had been different.

My kids won’t suffer this.  No one should have to.  How do I explain this to my boyfriend?  I’m sure he had issues growing up, but his parents love him.  I can feel it whenever I’m around them.  They love each other so much.  And it’s amazing and so healing.  I love spending time with them because it heals me.  It’s what a family is supposed to feel like.  Safe.  Warm.  Loving.  Something I never had at home.  Something my heart desperately yearns for.

I’m sorry this post is so heavy.  I’m in a very emotional place right now and wanted to share from my heart, as I always try to do.


Church Secrets, Part 1

note: this post contains some names that were changed to protect the people mentioned.  Any name with an asterisk [*] next to it has been changed.

14102056_1408508332493493_1744223736_nYou can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?
Brave, Sara Bareilles

“We don’t remember what they told us years ago.  Stop asking people.  You don’t want to start gossiping.”  These are the messages I received from my parents and others when I started asking questions about a former church of mine, a small conservative reformed denomination (this clarification was always stressed, after all, we wouldn’t want people thinking we are part of our sister denomination, who were more liberal).  Why all but one deacon and his family had left all those years ago.  Why so many of my friends had switched churches.  Why it still hurt and was unresolved.  I needed to know.  I could no longer let this unknown wound hurt me with no resolution or healing in sight.

So I started digging.  This blog series (Church Secrets) will share some of the things I learned along the way.  The reasons why I decided to leave my church.  The reasons why I call it my ex-church instead of one of my former churches.  The reasons why I currently do not attend church and struggle to trust any leaders in church.

It was November 2014.  I went home early for Thanksgiving break so that I could see my counselor for a special 2 hour session to work through a large chunk of my major bad relationship (the one with the 40+ year old man online).  I also got to visit some of my friends.  Samantha*, one of my friends who had previously been a part of my church, started talking to me about what had happened.  I thought she might know more because she and her family were close friends with some of the deacons and their families.

It had been over two years since Samantha and her family had left the church.  A couple weeks before I visited them, they received a printed letter from the church.  I’m going to quote the parts particularly relevant to this post below (click here to read the full letter).  Pay close attention to the last paragraph in particular.

You may be worshipping with another Bible-believing church.  If so, though we hate to lose you, please inform us so we can formally transfer your membership, or if you have already joined another body, please let us know so that we can remove you from the rolls.  We wish you nothing but God’s greatest blessings on you and all you do.

The writer of Hebrews tells us “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another…” We hope that we can be a church that does that for you.  If you are not currently worshipping with another church, in love we urge you to either return to us (again, we’d love to have you back!) or find another part of Christ’s body to affiliate with where God’s Word is proclaimed, the Gospel is offered to sinners, the sacraments are given, and there is godly oversight by church leadership.

If you chose neither of these routes, the elders of our church will be forced to remove your name from our rolls, and we would consider you to have left the Church Universal and to not be covered by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.

I was shocked.  I thought that excommunication ended hundreds of years ago.  But no.  It still goes on today.  It went on at MY church.  My own pastor and elders approved of this.  And all you had to do was either not attend any church at all (because clearly all the sermons about not adding anything to the gospel were lies) or not attending a church that they approve of means you are not saved.  What the actual fuck.

Yes.  This actually happened.  The leaders who I trusted and looked up to for over ten years were writing letters to former members informing them that they would treat them as unbelievers if they didn’t meet the right requirements.

Just thinking about this and re-reading everything over the last two days has kept me up until 6 am the other day.  It’s been over a year now since I left my ex-church, and I’m finally able to start sharing some of the things that motivated me to leave.  In future parts of this series I will be sharing: e-mails I received from the pastor when he learned that I was talking to former church members, a conversation I had regarding a former church ministry/outreach, a letter that was sent to all the members regarding a specific family who left, and more.

Part 2

So Tired

img_2374I’m not okay. I have depression and anxiety. People from back home ask me (or they ask my siblings/family) how I’m doing all the time. I usually say fine, or I’m hanging in there, or I’ll be writing an update soon. Well now is as good a time as any to write an update.
My new home is beautiful and I love all the nature and trees and hills. ^_^  And I have a kitten and a boyfriend who are both amazing and whom I love dearly.
Working in the food industry is definitely not what I want to do long term, and it’s very exhausting for an introvert (even though I love people). My coworkers are great and I (usually) enjoy working with them to serve our guests and keep our restaurant clean. Still super exhausted at the end of every shift.
I dropped out of college (Moody Bible Institute) because I could no longer handle the culture there. If I stayed one more year I would be an atheist (not a diss at atheists, btw… just not something I’d like to believe right now). Moody was literally killing my faith day by day – both the ideologies and theologies taught, and the ones lived out by the majority of the student body. The racism and sexism didn’t help things. I could no longer go to PCM (Public Christian Ministry) every week and hear how we needed to tie the gospel into every single English lesson. I wanted to help people learn English, I did not want to proselytize them at every turn. I wanted to just love people and give/share what I had with them that they could use. And I wanted to learn from others. With no underlying motivation of converting everyone and saving lost souls.
Can I just fucking love people?? What is so wrong with that?
I did not want to hear another lesson on how women must submit, but that complimentarianism was actually equal, just with two distinct roles. Or how you needed to read your Bible every day and if you did, you would have fewer struggles with depression, or sleep issues, or whatever you happened to be dealing with. Just have enough faith. I.E. Try harder, you’re clearly not trying hard enough. Or how everyone was going to hell unless they believed the correct things. Or hear another friend receive negative comments for studying theology. Or see other girls shamed for how they chose to dress or act. Or watch other denominations bashed – especially Catholicism. Or hear all the negative comments about anyone who tried to speak up about racism (because “talking about it is making it worse, it’s not an issue here” – so much white privilege that we were literally drowning in it).
Or having a guy make inappropriate comments, but when confronted, he said “Oh, I’m sorry you remember that. I would never do that.” And other similar things (such as stalking). Or hearing from a friend that the Dean dismissed his/her report of stalking to her face and asked her questions that pointed the blame solely onto him/her.
I’m so so tired. Of everything. I’m tired of fighting for people’s rights. It’s exhausting. And I’m not even the one facing most of the judgment/abuse, I can’t imagine how hard it is to live with that day-to-day. The one I face is sexism, which is hard enough (as a woman), but I can’t imagine coupling that with racism or any other -ism. To my friends who do, I’m proud of you. Keep living and being you.:) I support you, even when I’m exhausted and can’t do much more than send you love.
I’m tired of having to process my entire childhood because of the issues I’m now facing as an adult. And having to re-figure out what I believe about just about everything. I’m tired of gaslighting and speaking down to I received from my former pastor. I’m tired of the secrets, of all the hiding, all the shame. All the judging. I’m tired of abuse – spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, etc.
I was in two abusive relationships online when I was a minor (both with much older men) and it has greatly impacted me. Yes, I’m seeing a counselor and have in the past, but it still hurts and is going to take more work/healing. It wasn’t a “stumbling block”. It was abuse.
This is part of why I am so passionate about fighting the mentality that to protect our kids, we must literally sequester them off from society and every danger that is out there. It’s completely ineffective. I was extremely sheltered and yet I still managed to be abused by two men. And find pornography/erotica (I tend to lump them both together under the word pornography).
I don’t post the articles that I do (on my Facebook wall) without thought. I don’t post them to punish or hurt my parents (or other homeschooling/fundy (i.e. fundamental) parents). I share them because I was extremely hurt by the ideas encompassing those worldviews and I don’t want anyone else to experience what I have. And because every day I have the worry of my siblings over me. I’m not their parents, but they are growing up in the same things I did. I really wish I could make it better for them. But I can’t. And it sucks. I love them a lot and would do almost anything to make life better for them now so they won’t struggle like I am when they are older.
But I had to move out. I had to get away for my own sanity and healing. And it was really hard. It is really hard. My youngest siblings are not even ten yet. They don’t understand why I left. They also don’t understand why I left their home church over the summer. They would ask me every week if I was going to come to church with them. And be sad when I said no. I can’t go back to that church ever. I’ll post more about it later.
I was heartbroken when I spoke with my mom over spring break and found out that she did not see any practical purpose to explaining/talking about sexuality with my siblings who are in their teens/pre-teens. At least I had a two minute talk (that explained nothing, but hey, she sort of tried). She doesn’t understand the importance of talking about sex, or boundaries or safe sex (condoms, birth control, etc.). She said that they don’t need to know this information until they are ready to get married (i.e. the only time sex is socially allowed in fundamentalism).
I’m tired of having to consciously work through my boundaries every single day because my family didn’t have healthy ones. I remember they would try to hug my sister whenever she got angry. I could avoid them because I’d realize when they were about to try, but she usually didn’t. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I do not want to be hugged (or touched) when I’m angry. It does not help calm me down or improve the situation or relationships in question.
Why weren’t we taught to say no? Why was every little detail decided for us? I could have learned to say no at home. I should have. Saying no is a healthy part of growing up and recognizing what is and isn’t yours.
My door didn’t have a lock on it. It had a temporary lock for a couple of months, but it was ineffective at best, and destroyed by a neighborhood child when he was playing one day. Children need privacy and space.
Children need adults who will treat them like people and give them environments to grow and learn in (and yes, sometimes get hurt). They need parents who walk along side of them, not build a wall around them. They are going to face challenges and dangerous situations in life. All of us do/will eventually. Prepare them. Don’t shelter them. Give them a safe place to work through things at home. My home isn’t safe. I never want to go back.
Living on my own is really really really friggin’ hard. Working for $8 an hour (plus tips) sucks. Paying rent and food leaves me with little to no money left to save. And then the doctor bills for my required visits to get my anti-depressants.  I’m trying to apply for food stamps which I find ironic because my family spoke down of government aid because obviously most people were out to abuse the system. -_- Because clearly asking for help to pay for food bills when you have almost no money is a way to steal people’s money.
I was taught via shame and fear my whole life. I’ve always loved others, but now I’m trying to learn how to love myself. It’s hard.😦 I want to love myself now. To be healed now. To be able to move on and never have to work through this stuff again. But I can’t.
I want to know how to read myself well. When people ask me how I’m doing or if I’m okay I want to know how to answer. I don’t want to say “I don’t know” one more time because I know something is wrong but I literally can’t pinpoint it. I was told to not cry when I was spanked. I very quickly learned to hide my emotions deeply due to that and other things said/done. I’m in a lot of pain, but I hide it well. Sometimes I don’t even see it. Other times I’m lying on my bed crying uncontrollably.
I want to be able to tell my boyfriend that I’m not upset with him or his sexuality. But that I want to feel the way he does when he orgasms. I’ve never felt that. I don’t know how. I don’t know how to feel aroused after the initial feelings of excitement. I know my body is doing what it’s supposed to do (i.e. secreting fluid and stuff), but my brain is completely shut down from strong emotions like pleasure. I’m tired.
I’m happy when my boyfriend is happy. ^^ In fact, making people happy is a main motivator for me in life. But part of me so deeply longs to feel the same way I know he is feeling. And I don’t know how to. And I’m beginning to think I may never. And maybe I need to be okay with that.
I’m tired of being sensitive. I want to be able to watch things like Game of Thrones, and Supernatural, and Jurassic Park with my boyfriend and roommate and friends. But I can’t. I shut down. My emotions shut off. And they hit me later. And it hurts so bad. I hurt for others.  I also feel others’ joy which is nice.:)  If I’m honest, I wouldn’t ever give up my sensitivity.  I just sometimes wish that I could do things others who are less sensitive can do.
I’m tired of being triggered at rape/abuse scenes. Panic attacks suck. Especially since I don’t even know why it’s triggering to me (yet). I think I may be dealing with repressed childhood trauma or abuse, but I don’t know yet.
There’s so much I don’t know.
I want to be able to effortlessly just “chill” with a group of my peers. But there is no role in chilling. It’s just being yourself. And everything I did in my childhood involved a role. I’m great with roles. But when those are turned off, I do not know how to act, what to do or what to say. This is something I wish I had learned through normal unscripted interactions in my childhood. But I didn’t have many of those, so I’m socially awkward. I love when I make people laugh (especially with/at something funny I do/say), but I deeply wish I could fit in with my peers (still being my weird self, but minus the obvious lack of social-peer skills).
When you’re homeschooled, you are told that it’s so amazing that you learn how to interact with adults and children of all ages. And yes, that’s cool. But when you don’t learn to interact with your own age group, I’m not sure that it’s a fair trade off. And when you are forced to be super mature all the time and act like a mini-adult, you lose some of your precious childhood.
*breathes* Wow, that’s a lot. And there’s so much more I want to say. But I’m tired. And so I will leave this here for you. I love you guys and I hope that we can all find healing from whatever things we are facing each day.

P.S. I’m also tired of treating others like they are inherently bad and judging myself at every move “am I doing this selfishly?  I couldn’t possibly be doing this with not bad underlying motivation because I’m desperately wicked and sinful.”  Everything had to be a sin.  And it sucked.  It gives you no space to be proud of yourself (being prideful is a sin).  No space to be yourself and just share who you are with others.  I couldn’t see how kind and caring I was towards others, because if I did, then I’d become proud of myself.  And that was bad.

**I originally wrote this as a Facebook post, but I decided I couldn’t post it because  I’m not yet ready to share a lot of this information with the whole world under my real name.  I really want to.  But I’d have to emotionally deal with the responses I’d get from friends and family, and I don’t have the energy necessary to do that yet.  Also people would want to know more and would argue against many of the things I said.  So that’s why this is written a bit differently than my other blog posts.**

“I Know What It’s Like”

img_2365Those are the words my dad said to me when I tried to explain my depression to him.  “I know what it’s like.  Everyone has down days at some point, and they feel really sad or depressed.”

“No, that’s not depression.  Not everyone knows what it’s like, and not everyone has experienced it.”

He insisted he was right, as he always does, and the discussion ended.  Or rather, I shut myself up and refused to discuss it more.  What’s the point in explaining something to someone who has already made up their mind without bothering to listen and understand?  There is none.

A short heads up: I’ve been on a half dose of my medication (a generic form of Lexapro) for the past week and a half, so this post may be a bit more “down” than my usual ones.  I figured I should write about depression while being in the midst of it so that I could hopefully explain it better.:)  At least, how I experience depression.  It looks different in each person.

Sometimes depression hits me out of the blue with a crying spell.  I just start crying and I don’t know why.  Or sometimes I will start thinking really negative thoughts about my life and myself and then I become so frustrated with myself that I start crying.  I want so badly to not have depression.  To be able to think clearly on my own.  To be myself without need of medication.

The other week, I realized I was in a depressive spiral.  All I was thinking was that I go to work most days, and then I come home, maybe watch TV or scroll Facebook and then once or twice a week hang out with my boyfriend.  And I couldn’t think of anything worth living for.  And I felt hopeless and empty.  Nothing mattered.  I thought maybe I was just using my boyfriend to have some small joy in my life and that I should stop because he deserves better.

Or tonight, a couple hours ago, when I started to feel depressed.  Over and over again I thought about my depression and how it messes up my thinking.  And how awful it makes me.  I was angry at myself.  I was so frustrated that I started crying.  Why?  Because depression tells me that I’m not worth loving.  That no one could ever love someone like me.  That everyone will become as frustrated with me as I am with myself.  I can convince myself that people will leave.  That I should leave them before they can leave me.  It twists my thinking.

Sometimes I recognize when depression tangles up my thinking.  Sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I recognize it, but I can’t stop my thoughts from tumbling in circles.

I’m so thankful to have a boyfriend who is willing to listen and love me even when I’m in the middle of my worst depressive episode or a panic attack.  Who continually reminds me that he loves me even when I don’t love myself. ^_^  And I’m thankful to the doctors who have found different forms of medications to help the chemicals in my brain become more balanced.  I’m also thankful for my friends who are willing to skype or FaceBook message me in the middle of my panic attacks.  They have helped calm me down and have talked me through the worst moments.

For the moment, I have hope.  I know the light will hide sometimes, and I won’t always feel or see it, but it will come again.


P.S.  If you know someone struggling with depression, remind them to be gentle with themselves.  And please, please, please remind them of how much you love them.  We don’t want you to have answers to our depression.  We just need you to sit with us and listen and love.  And maybe hold us tight when we break down into tears.  Or hold our wrists when we try to punish ourselves.  Help us love ourselves better, and above all show us love.

You Have Been Loved

img_5758“You have been loved.” Those are the words my grandmother repeated to me as she and grandpa drove me further and further away from my family. Leaving the box. Moving away on my own for the first time.

“Your dad, he has a good heart, he just doesn’t always show it,” she continued. She spent the next half hour giving examples from his childhood to prove it. Later, she shared stories of my early childhood. When I was born (at home), I had Jaundice. At the time, it was believed to be quite dangerous to newborns and the doctor recommended that they take me to the hospital. But my parents chose to keep me at home and use natural remedies (such as sunlight). I was fine, and eventually it went away. Grandma said, “Your parents were brave to go against the recommendation of the pediatrician. That took a lot of guts. They really care about you.”

I remember.

I remember the time my dad found out I was buying a lamp for my dorm room. He gave me a small screwdriver because he thought I might need one and wanted me to have one for future use as well.

I remember the Christmas when the new Les Miserables came out for the first time. My grandparents took us to see it and I loved it so much that I begged my parents to let me go again. My dad took me to see it again the next week.

But I also remember when my dad told me he was taking me out for a surprise. And we drove up to the shot place and I got a shot. That was the day I stopped trusting him. I was eight. He went and bought me colorful cardstock paper afterwards, as a reward.

I remember the time I was sitting in the back of our mini-van as we pulled into the garage. Mom and Dad were in the front seats. Dad made a comment about me being old enough to need deodorant and that I smelled bad. I was embarrassed as I slid open the car door and walked into the house.

I remember the first time I told mom I liked a boy. I was eleven. She told me, on that night standing on the bottom of the stairway by the coat closet, that I was too young to like boys. I never talked to her about boys again.

I remember sitting in the hard wooden pew next to our visiting friend who was an unbeliever. He innocently passed me the communion plate and I, unthinkingly, took a piece of bread. I distinctly remember the intense guilt, shame, and embarrassment that was heaped upon me when dad realized what had happened. And hanging my head as I climbed into our van after church. I was probably six or seven at the time.

I remember hearing my little sister crying after I had been put in bed. I must’ve been two or three at the time. I got out of bed and went to go see why she was crying and to comfort her. Dad found me out of bed and spanked me without asking me why I had gotten out of bed. I broke the rule about getting out of bed at night, and it didn’t matter that I had gotten out to take care of my sister.

I remember being expected to never forget to do things. Forgetting was a sign of rebellion or disobedience (or both). I forgot things a lot, like cleaning out my pet crab’s cage or filling his water dish. But I wasn’t ignoring those things because of laziness; I honestly did not remember to do them.

I remember being held in the middle of the swimming pool by the swimming instructor as they slowly lowered the floor of the pool to a great depth.  I could not touch the floor.  I was terrified of going underwater.  And I was forced to.  The lady counted down from three and then let go of me in the middle of the pool.  Over and over again.

I remember you trying to protect me.  But from the wrong person.  You found out I was emailing a guy online every day and had been doing so for months.  You did not believe me when I said it was a friendship only – not a relationship.  So you insisted I cut it back to once a week and write a terribly awkward note about how I was not interested in a relationship.  You protected me from someone who never harmed me, but you were never there to protect me from the real bad guys who came later.

I remember and it hurts.  I remember and I cry.  Tears of sadness.  Tears of lost innocence.  Tears of hurt.  Tears of a child.  Tears of broken relationships.

I have been loved.  But I have never felt that love.  I am still a child inside; curled up,  crying, and yearning for love, acceptance, and protection.  Wanting to be valued.  Wanting to feel love.

I know you love me, or at least, my brain tells me that you do.  But my heart can’t feel it.  And it has been wounded so many times that I’m not sure it will ever open for you again.  I’m not sure I will ever trust you again.  Even if you tell me ‘I love you’ a million times over.  Even if you say you are ready to listen.  Please give me time.  And hear me when I say, from a very sad and broken place, that I want to trust you.  But I can’t right now.  And if I never do, will you try to love me anyway?