Oh god, how can I even begin to describe what we felt pulling up? To us, it was HUGE, about, oh I don’t know, 500 members? (Side, it always makes me laugh when someone describes a church as small and says it has about 100 members: you don’t know small until you attend a 20-person church where your family is half the membership.) After the funeral-style dirges we were used to, the music was upbeat and fast-paced. There was a large choir, all hymns or southern-gospel style songs, the preaching was from the KJV. Everything reeked of tradition, but there were cushioned pews, carpeted floors, a nursery, Sunday school, and ohmygosh PEOPLE!! We made quite the entrance in our 15-passenger royal blue van and 9+ kids in odd fashions, and the members were drawn to us instantly. They were, and still are, an incredibly friendly bunch (to their own kind anyway). They made us feel welcome, wanted to find out about us, the young people actually tried to talk to us. It was, dare I say it, magical. We were…..appreciated!! Sought out!! Treated as if we were important and someone of worth!!! When you spend your entire life feeling marginalized and shut up, that feeling was like crack. I don’t think we visited anywhere else after that, but jumped right in. Except for my dad, who realized we would all have to be baptized in order to join. The pastor was fairly adamant about that.
So picture this, if you will. 9 children, ages ~6 to 23, all getting baptized, one after the other. Standing in a looooooong line at the front of the church, while all the members came by and congratulated you. Feeling very out-of-place in your bulky sweater that was two-sizes-too-big, a calf-length elasticized skirt with a floral print, chunky sandals, no jewelry or makeup or nice hair while all the girls your age are wearing modern clothes and heels and perfectly styled hair. JUST PICTURE IT. Then cry a little for 18-year old me who grew up in a bubble and was becoming painfully aware of just all the ways she did not measure up.
That was….May, I think. For a few months, I got to hear all about the church’s connected college. I then went to their youth camp in Tennessee, which….I kinda want to cry myself now.
Continue reading “I never have been very good at puzzles….” Part 2