I have been told I had a unique upbringing.
My husband playfully says that I was raised by hippies.
I have also been respectfully called “religious”... and jokingly called a “Bible Thumper.”
Hmm... Religious Bible Thumping Hippies? Is there such a thing? Well, I guess it could be worse…
I never thought of my parents as “hippies.” Although if I think about it, I was born during the 70s. We grew our own veggies and ate organically. We believed in natural healing techniques. We sat together and sang songs around many a campfire... and attended church. So?
Normal stuff, as far as I am concerned. I mean, doesn’t everyone know all the Lennon sisters songs? Or recall the theme song to Lawrence Welk? Or smoke rosemary from a pipe to heal a sore throat?
We were not hippies – we just loved each other, enjoyed music, tried to live frugally, made healthy choices and thought the bible held some sound words of wisdom…
I have to say that I am blessed; I have many wonderful memories of my childhood.
We grew up on 5 acres of land – of which I roamed freely with my younger sister. The land had piles of boulders which we made into hide outs, we had hills to sled on, trees to climb, fields to run in and a forest to spend our days imagining. We said grace before the meals we shared together each night, we laughed, played and grew together. We lived in a home built by my father’s and mother’s own hands on land that had belonged to generations of my father’s family.
As most memories are -- the ones of my childhood consist of my parents, my sister, grandparents and even my high school sweet heart. Wonderfully wound and richly filled recollections of Christmas, Easter, of birthdays and family celebrations. They are all connected together with occasional tender moments of sadness, then healing followed by joy–
And -- of attending church.
My spiritual upbringing was unique. As some of you know, my mother was raised catholic and my father protestant and my parents felt strongly that their children should be raised ecumenically – meaning they promoted the unity between their different religious beliefs. Therefore, we attended two churches – one catholic and one protestant, almost weekly.
My church experiences from my youth are equally proportioned to those memories of growing up…
Of being taught how to play the guitar as a teen by a member of the folk choir, of creating the eye of God out of string and popsicle sticks during a hot summer day at vacation bible school, of feeding the homeless at a soup kitchen with my youth group, of lock-ins and midnight bowling.
Of seeing the face of my pastor in the crowd as he cheered my name when I crossed the finish line of a difficult cross country track meet. Of sitting on the hill at Camp “Kingsmont” as a senior in high school reflecting on what God’s plan might be for me. Of singing the Our Father while holding hands with strangers around a campfire…
I believe I learned virtue, hope, faith and love from my parents. Then I was guided into a spiritual community of people who truly possessed the purity and the heart to help families to grow as faithful followers – to embrace the youth of their church and surround them with the love and assurance necessary to grow into good people.
For I believe they too remembered what it meant to be a child, and because of their own desire as adults to hold fast to the gifts that childhood provides them, the gifts of innocence, love, joy, pure goodness of spirit and heart.
I remember one of my first experiences here in Norton as I had been searching for a church community to belong to. My heart ached with a feeling of homesickness as I sat in multiple small community churches, unrecognized and feeling slightly unwelcomed and alone.
I finally landed at the here in Norton. I sat and watched as Pastor Bernie (then new to the Trinitarian as well) baptized a baby. He had taken the infant in his arms, walked the center isle of the church and introduced the child to us all. Bernie asked the child to be patient with us, for we were not perfect, but to know that he/she could rely upon us to support and guide them as they ventured out into the world… And I was sold….
I can say, for years to follow, strangers from this church made me a prayer shawl to cover me while I rocked my newly born babies to sleep. These same people brought us weeks of meals and tiny gifts...I smile when I remember how my oldest daughter ran up to me one day after church with a box filled with dolls wearing homemade clothing – given to her by one of the wonderful elders of the church who shared the same passion for doll collecting that my daughter did. The same woman who has not forgotten to send Lily a birthday card each year, and who knitted a prayer shawl for Lily when she was down for weeks after breaking her arm…
It is in these moments that I am reminded of what church stands for, during a time when most are disheartened with churches and religion. It is in these moments that I am also reminded of what it means to give...
To selflessly give with love and the pureness of heart.
I hope to remain mindful that it is moments like these that can impact my children’s little lives well into their own adulthood – Hopefully providing them with fond memories and comfort when the world seems a little less forgiving and unkind.
Maybe being raised as a religious bible-thumping hippie was not so bad after all….