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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Food for Thought

I grew up attending a Church of Christ church.

You know … no instruments, no fellowship hall, dressed to the nines for all three of the week’s services, surrounded by ladies who wear lace on their heads who teach all the little Church of Christ children that sex is a big bad terrible thing, always re-iterating the fact that our offering is “separate and apart” from the lord’s supper, repeating the five most do’s of salvation: hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized …

I could go on and on.

I remember thinking when I was younger, “I’m so lucky that I was born into a Church of Christ family…how else would I get into heaven?”

Yup. Pretty embarrassing.

And I didn’t realize how terrible and embarrassing and downright WRONG all that was until I got to college and decided to “church-hop”, as I’ve termed it. I went to Baptist churches, small groups, Methodist churches, campus ministries, community churches, Presbyterian churches, you name it. It was my own little faith journey that I desperately needed to figure out what I believed because I believe it, not because it was spoon-fed to me for 18 years.

And my simple conclusion was: It doesn’t matter which type of religion you claim … Baptist, Presbyterian, Church of Church, Methodist … because that is not going to get you there. It doesn’t matter how many times a week you sit in a pew. It doesn’t matter if you worship in jeans or in a knee-length skirt, with instruments or a pitch-pipe.  There is not one thing you can do (or avoid doing) that will matter. YOU aren’t going to get yourself there (and thank GOODNESS we aren’t responsible for getting ourselves there, because we’ve already failed at that).

The only reason we even have a SHOT at getting there is because absolute perfection came and took the blame for all of our filth. That selfless act and what you choose to do with it is all that matters.
I say all that to say …

While I was off on my little faith journey, my Church of Christ church loosened up a little…which I appreciate. They now have a homeless shelter ministry, a more tolerant dress code (i.e. jeans have slowly become acceptable), and they actually learned new songs that weren’t written 300 years ago. I’m not sure if it’s enough to for me to back there regularly, but it’s definitely a start in the right direction.

The most recent tie to be loosened was the decision to do away with Sunday evening service and just stick to Sunday morning services. And since the change, I have learned that not everyone is on board. In fact, one woman opposed to it hates it so much that she has compared it to taking food away from a perfectly healthy body.

(Her logic is … if you take away a worship service from a healthy group of Christians, they will die a bad spiritual death. For the record, this woman has posted her views on FB for the world to see so I have zero qualms about speaking of it here as well).

Yes, we are all entitled to our own opinion … but gracious. That’s just ridiculous.

As glad as I am that my little Church of Christ church has decided to let its hair down a bit … it’s because of ridiculous healthy body/food mindsets, strict black and white policies, extreme traditions and narrow mindedness that makes me hesitate to come back for good and consider raising my future children there. We'll have to see about that.

Tonight, I'm thankful for the freedom to speak my mind and my precious little blog for a chance to vent. 

I feel better now.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Grateful & Thankful

The agonies of life struck my family a few weeks ago. My 86-year old grandmother’s body began to weaken and has been trying to shut down ever since.

Now, I’m not real good with these type of things: sickness, death, extreme compassion. I know that’s a terrible thing to say, but I physically do not know how to react to stuff like this. For some reason it just makes me very uncomfortable … so I just don’t deal with it, until it all builds up and then I deal with it on my own in private (Sidenote: One of my good friends told me last night that there is no right or wrong way to deal with things like this, and I know she’s right. But then again, I’ve gotten a lot of smack over the past few weeks about how I handle stuff like this so, I’m not sure where I fall in the grand scheme of things).
Throughout this entire end-of-life process, more and more people have become aware of what my mom (because it really is her, not me, going through it all. I haven’t had an actual conversation with the woman in over week) is dealing with. One of those people is a woman my mom works with; I call her Ms Pat.

Background – Ms. Pat sings in the choir at the church I’ve been visiting for a while. When she learned I like to sing and that I am alto just like her, she invited me to come with her to a rehearsal. This was about a month ago.
She introduced me to a bunch of her friends and then she introduced me to the choir director, Dan Odle. I talked to him for MAYBE two minutes. He told me he was glad I was visiting and that he would love it if I came back. You know, normal introductory conversation.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon.
I get a phone call from an unlisted number while I’m at work. I hesitantly answer it. I hate getting calls from unknown numbers. For some reason they scare me like I’m about to get real bad news or something.

“Hi Amy, this is Dan Odle from HS Baptist Church.”
My heart began beating faster, and I started to get real uncomfortable. My initial thought was that he was calling to see why I hadn’t shown up for rehearsal over the past few weeks. But he went on to say …

“I’m calling because I heard about your grandmother. I want you to know that I am thinking of you and praying for you and if there’s anything we can do please let me know.”
Shock of shockers. I mean … definitely last thing I expected to hear on the other end of that call. He went onto ask me how she was, and I gave the best update I possibly could. And then he asked if he could pray with me real quick … And right there, over the phone Dan Odle, a man I’ve only spoken to once and it was for maybe two minutes a month ago, prayed with me over the phone.

I had to leave my desk and go to the conference room when he began praying because I just lost it. Who does stuff like that anymore?  I had had a really bad day yesterday anyway and really was beginning to lose my faith in humanity in general.
And then that phone call happened.  

It really just put everything in perspective and helped me see what’s important and what’s not. What types of things are worthy of my time, my energy and what’s not.
I was reminded that I will be remembered by how I treat people.  And I’ve been on both sides of the coin. I’ve been treated and talked to pretty ugly by people, and I know I’ve done the same thing. And to go even further, my greatest challenge is not even being kind, but merely tolerant of those who I feel have done me wrong. Definitely my biggest weakness.

If everyone (including myself) just stopped and looked at the world through the eyes of someone like Dan Odle … this world would be a completely different place.
I am so grateful and thankful for people like Dan and Ms. Pat and hope I can be an encouragement to someone like they have been to me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Future Queen

I will never forget Valentine’s Day during my sophomore year of high school. One of my favorite teachers from all 18 years of my education, Coach Welborne, spoke words of wisdom on this particular day. We were annoying him with all sorts of stupid questions of what he was going to do for his wife for Valentine’s Day, and after all the questioning subsided, he finally said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “I don’t need one day to show my wife I love her. I try my best to do it every day”.

Those words have stuck with me for almost ten years now. And maybe that’s only because I’ve never had a magical special Valentine’s Day, and I repeated his words to myself in an effort to feel better about things: “It’s okay Amy. One of these days, you’ll be with someone who will feel the same way and he’ll treat you like a queen 365 days a year”

It’ll happen. I’m still patiently waiting. Each day, I care a little less about relationships and a little more about my job and my desire to get better and learn and earn enough money to move out and be an official adult. And mayyyyyybe get a puppy.
Until my queen status begins, I’ll lavish in the flowers my dad sends me and the card my mom gets me every year. And some people don’t even get that. So who am I to complain?

Monday, February 4, 2013

And pledge to thee our loyalty, the ages through

My love for all things Auburn started at an early age. 

Exhibit A:

This is not new information. Everyone knows this about me.

Year after year, I giggled each time Aubie twirled his long orange tail. Year after year, I waved at every car traveling down 280 that proudly flew an Auburn flag. Year after year, I fell asleep in the back seat to the repeated notes of the locker room report intro. Year after year, my sister and I drug our parents into Haley Center to get our faces brightly painted with a tiger paw and an AU. Year after year, I posed for the same exact picture in front of the hallowed gates of Jordan-Hare Stadium.  Year after year, we stopped at the Russell store in Alex City to pee before pulling into town. 

It's an accurate statement when I say my childhood was largely consumed with Auburn football. 

This week, all my favorite social media sites have been filled with articles, memories and photos of people desperately trying to keep the spirit of the Toomer's Oaks alive despite the awful news announced last week of the trees' ultimate fate. 

Just ten minutes ago, I read a man's blog post describing the one and only time he visited Toomer's Corner with his father when he was a little boy. He didn't really have much of a relationship with his father because he worked all the time. But after the Auburn win:

"I vividly remember sitting on my dad's shoulders under those branches, with my head back and my hands stretched as far as I could get them into the sky. Somehow, I remember smiling until my face hurt. The structured chaos of a Toomer's celebration was almost more than my tiny heart could stand. 

Then, there was my dad. For the only time I can remember, he was not the emotionless picture of stoicism that he was at home. In that moment, he felt the same joy that I did! He shouted. He cheered. He pumped his fist. My father didn't engage in such acts of indignity. But he did on that day. I still remember him looking up at me with an uncharacterisically broad smile. I knew it was a special day."  

When I finished reading, I realized an awful truth.

I don't have any special Toomer's Corner childhood memories. 

Yes, I went to the games every single year, but rarely did we go celebrate at Toomer's afterward. I can barely remember one time, to be quite honest. My dad would always make us leave the games with about 3 minutes left so we could beat traffic and as a result, I'm now realizing that I'm left with a hole where most Auburn fans overflow. [I can share several from my four years at Auburn (with the night we won the National Championship obviously ranking #1 on the list) but it's not the same as an old story]. 

The trees do not take me back to a special time. They don't bring back a forgotten happiness. 

But, those oaks are celebrities to me. They are the celebrities of Auburn.  

Samford Hall, the lemonade, Cater lawn, Foy Student Union, Tiger Walk, Bodda Getta ... all these things are celebrated at Toomer's Corner. The rolling of the oaks is, at the end of the day, the ultimate celebration of all things Auburn. It's where it all things Auburn come together. If Auburn University had a living, breathing heart ... it would be the oaks.

And so this is where my sadness lies. One of the best places on Earth is losing the symbol of everything it stands for. And the future Auburn family members will be left with only the stories and pictures of the symbol that can never be replaced. 

I won't have the chance to introduce my children to my two favorite celebrities and create for them memories I did not have. For those of you lucky enough to have those special memories, don't let them go down with the trees. 

Those of us in the Auburn family without the special memories ... we need something to cling to.

Keep the pictures and the stories coming. 

War Eagle forever.