Dear Sister Christian

I went on a two-month mission trip in college and one of the leaders began calling me “Sister Christian”. This leader was a great lady and she often came up with little sayings that were endearing and/or humorous. As a Christian, I thought there was something satisfying in the idea that we were all connected as a family. We were a family that knew the truth of Christ’s love and salvation. So, I began using this new expression, sister Christian, since I preferred it to the more awkward-sounding “Sister (or Brother) in Christ”.

As you likely know, I am no longer a believer in any god and therefore no one can accurately call me sister Christian any longer. But in the letter below, the “feeler” in me chose to address my Christian friends and family in this former way because I like expressing affection. And I am truly grateful that, as human-beings, we are all connected in a familial way, despite our many differences in opinion and belief. (Note: this letter isn’t to anyone in particular, it’s a summation of my feelings and thoughts toward my religious family and friends).

Despite my desire to communicate, sometimes saying what I feel is the last thing I want to do...Here goes!

Communicating what I really feel can be so fun… here goes nothing!

Dear Sister (and Brother) Christian,

I miss you. I miss how things used to be. I miss our conversations. I miss the peace and harmony I felt when hanging out with you. Sadly, I am not sure we can have that back. It seems that you have taken a step back from our relationship. I get it… change can be hard. Especially the unexpected “rock the core beliefs” kind of change that happened to me.

It has been pretty exhausting… the process of:

  • doubting and questioning the faith I have had since I was young
  • seeking the truth despite what I grew up believing and despite what my loved-ones believe
  • realizing that I simply don’t believe anymore
  • sharing this news with people as it seems appropriate (examples here and here)
  • experiencing changes in many relationships
  • deciding how to handle all the changes
  • attempting to treat my friends and family with compassion and understanding
  • figuring out how to raise my children morally, without guidance from a god (examples here and here)
  • figuring out how to have community without church
  • observing you sharing about god at your convenience
  • holding my tongue so as not to offend people
  • and finally starting this blog so I can have a voice.

It is very possible that you are exhausted too and that many of your thoughts and prayers have been spent on my behalf. Maybe you fear for my eternal soul or what may happen to me in this life. Or perhaps, you don’t think about this change in my life at all. Maybe it just doesn’t bother you that much. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between. How do you feel about this change in my life? Well, either way, I felt it necessary to express my thoughts and feelings because while I am at peace with the realization that I’m an atheist, I am not at peace with my relationship with you.

Here are some things I think you should know about me:

  • I am still the same person I used to be
    • I love people and building relationships
    • I love my family A LOT
    • I enjoy being outdoors and staying active
    • I’m caring, honest, genuine, fun and enthusiastic
    • Like most people, I want happiness for myself and my loved-ones
  • I didn’t suddenly become immoral
    • I strive for the things that are in the best interest of myself, my family, my friends and my community
    • I don’t want to steal, lie, cheat, or harm anyone
  • I am not convinced there is a god because I haven’t found sufficient evidence
    • I didn’t lose faith because I wanted an excuse to sin
    • I am not a heathen because I felt harmed by god or his followers
    • While I am open to hearing your evidence, I would advise that you not treat me like a potential convert, I think that will only hurt our relationship
  • I don’t generally feel the need to talk about religion
    • I don’t care what you believe as long as you’re not hurting anyone
    • I enjoy the fact that I don’t need to be an evangelist anymore
    • While I do want you to think critically about your own viewpoint, I don’t want to spend time trying to convince you to agree with me
    • That said, I am open to talking about god and our existence and generally enjoy such conversations

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If I could have an ideal conversation with you about beliefs it would go something like this:

You: I believe ________ and this is why _________.

Me: OK, I don’t believe ________ and this is why __________.

You: Alright.

(We decide to mutually respect each other’s right to believe or not believe whatever we want as long as it’s not hurting anyone)

Me: Alright, well, that’s enough about religion.

You: Yeah, let’s have fun and enjoy each other’s company and not let religion get in the way.

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I realize life isn’t so simple, it’s not possible to have it exactly the way we want sometimes. And that’s OK.

I want you to know I am happy. I used to worry so much about what god might be saying to me or how he was leading my life. Now, I feel empowered to make my own choices and take responsibility for my life. I feel free. I feel at peace. I am doing well.

Lastly, I invite you to share anything about yourself that you would like me to know. I welcome your response to this letter if you feel compelled.

With much love,

Vanessa

 

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Weekend Roundup

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Riding the wave of happiness, motivation, and self-discovery

Well, it’s true, I’m the happiest I have been in a very long time. I am motivated and meeting my fitness and nutrition goals. I’m gaining more tools to be a better parent. And I am thoroughly enjoying upgrading my blog (Want an upgrade too? Check out the Zero to Hero blog challenge). I am attempting to ride this wave of happiness, motivation, and self-discovery, and in turn better my life in sustainable, life-long ways.

Part of my self-edification process has been gaining inspiration and insights from the many blogs I have discovered recently. So today, I am thrilled to give you my weekend roundup, linking to some of my favorite blog posts from this past week. This is just a taste of what I read and loved this week. Thanks to these posts (and many others), I am excited, inspired, motivated, and happy!

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I was encouraged by the post, I was brave and learned I don’t want to settle. In my own life, I know the Success Starts Here Freeway Style Desert Landscape (1)importance of pursuing my dreams and not settling for mediocrity. My favorite excerpt from the post:

“What I want is to be living at 100%, giving my all to everything that I dive into and loving every single second of it. What I want is to tell my children to follow their dreams and not settle for anything less. What I want is to inspire my family, and others, by walking away from my rut and creating my own future, where I don’t just survive, I thrive… And that is exactly what I did”

Caitlin Edmon, Aprons, Trainers, and Bibs

While we all have off days, I do think aspiring for greatness in your life is totally doable. So Caitlin, I’m happy to join you in being brave and not settling.

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Earlier this week, in response to a daily prompt, I wrote Why haven’t I pursued my dream job? Check out another bloggers take in My Dream Job. I can really identify with her dreams because they relate to fitness. She talks about pursuing dreams and the importance of perseverance:

Message Stones“Just because it isn’t easy, doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible.  Sometimes, you have to go the long way around to get to your goal.  The important thing is that you never give up!”

Ebone Nut, One Crazy Mom

Yes Ebone! Lets persevere and chase those dreams.

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Rather Than Curse the Darkness, Light a Tiki Torch was a great reminder that a wide circle of loved ones is valuable. This blog post also made me want to ask more questions and be a good listener in the company of friends… there is so much to know about each special life you encounter. My new favorite quote is:file0001027084534

“What I love best about a circle is that there is always room for one more.”

Naomi, Writing Between The Lines

Naomi, you have taught me so much in a short time and I’m glad to be a part of your blogging circle!

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file1711246044891In Moving Into the Light, Karen paints a picture of hope for challenging situations. Sometimes life just plain sucks and sometimes life can be good even when we are amidst struggles… but either way, thankfully we CAN get through the storm. I appreciate your story Karen and am looking forward to reading more!

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And lastly, this week I discovered the blog Running On Healthy. Two particular posts, IMG_0542Learning The Art of Negative Splits and Run For Those Hills, inspired a higher quantity and better quality of running for me this week. I love their blog tagline “Living Life Healthy, Fit, and Happy”. I plan to aim for a healthy, fit, and happy life for as long as possible.

 

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Thanks again to all who contributed to my better quality of life this week. You seriously rock!

The Sound of Silence

Earlier this week I wrote a short blip about the Excruciating Silence that happens when a loved one fails to communicate. As I mentioned in that post, I am a communicator, sometimes an over-communicator. It drives me insane to feel like I have discord with a loved one. I have always been in favor of mediation, conflict resolution, and the pursuit of harmony. When silence lingers for too long (especially when personal and relational challenges are being faced) it’s easy to make assumptions or perhaps let resentments linger. One such instance of an uncomfortable and ongoing silence in my life happened when I started sharing with loved ones about my new-found atheism.

“Coming Out” Atheist: Eventual Silence

About two years ago, my husband and I shared some important information with our close family (specifically, our parents and siblings). We “came out” of our atheist closets and said:

  • We are not Christians anymore
  • We don’t have sufficient evidence for any gods and therefore don’t believe
  • We are at peace with our realization
  • We are still the same caring, fun-loving, and happy people that we were before 

Every single family member was surprised at this change of heart… I don’t blame them since we were seriously devoted to our faith for so long. Some family members had pretty mild reactions. Oh, but some of our family members…their response was not so tame. Raised voices. Heated arguments. Hurt feelings. Unusual behavior. Aggression. Blaming. All of these things erupted in the first few months after sharing our news.

Soon, the raging fire sizzled out and the rumblings ceased…

Silence.

Share faith? Feel free. Lack belief? Mums the word.

Share faith? Feel free. Lack belief? Mums the word.

Awkward, uncomfortable silence.

Excruciatingly painful yucky silence.

When it came to our lack of belief, our families cries went from passionate and vocal… to silent. In desperation I felt like shouting, “But, we used to talk so openly about so many things! Can’t we be real with each other without taking things so personally? Or at the very least, can we agree to disagree, choose to love each other, and THEN not talk about it?” I used to share my deepest emotions and thoughts with my family. Now that we disagree about our core beliefs, sharing in this way has become incredibly difficult, and for now, impossible.

I can hear some of you saying, “Why do you even need to talk about god?” Truly, I would be happy to avoid the god topic under the following conditions: religion isn’t being pushed on my family and we’re not looked down upon for our disbelief. For now, that is not the case.

Unfortunately, because some family members are so devoted to their god, I fear there will be strife, passive aggression, and awkward, painful silence indefinitely. I have rejected their core beliefs, somehow that hurts them. I have to remember, I am the one who changed gradually over time, and then suddenly, I dumped this shocking information on my family.

Perhaps, gradually over time, my family will embrace me with open arms once again, with a willingness to share and be real about who we are. 

But I’m not getting my hopes up.

In the mean time, I will attempt to be inspired by the words of actor and playwright, Harvey Fierstein:

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

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Excruciating Silence

I am such a communicator. Recently a loved one chose not to share, touch base, or respond to me for a time. I felt out of whack, desperate, crazy. We reconnected today, hooray!

The silence of a friend was broken… and all is well in my world again.