An Enduring Faith

Scan-031 Good morning!  I decided I wanted to share a few posts about my different backgrounds:  my faith, my family, my art and maybe even just me in general.  It is always good to get know a sister in Christ better, right?  So I am going to start with faith:

I grew up in the ELCA Lutheran church:  there are also the Missouri and Wisconsin synod branches.  The ELCA is probably considered the least strict of the three in some ways--not sure how to put that.  But the ELCA allows women to not only be laypeople in the church, but also ordained ministers.  That is probably the biggest difference.  The ELCA believes in salvation by grace not works, the sacraments, confession of sins,  and follows a set liturgy (prayers, responsive readings, and every week they read from the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament, and the Gospel).  When I was a kid I went to Sunday school and attended church with my parents, so I was in on all of that.  I have always felt like I had a really strong base in the Word, because I listened during church and soaked in all of that.  I was very blessed.

I come from a family of strong faith and religion.  My mom, aunts, and grandmother on mom's side really shaped my faith and service to the church:  you didn't just attend, you SERVED.  And it was a good thing.  I have always dived in and enjoyed my different roles in the churches we attended.  Ours was a praying family, a Bible reading family, a singing hymns at home family.

I attended a Lutheran college, and took religion classes. BUT I was friends with strong feminist types, my religion professor was more interested in the historical facets of the Bible than the spiritual, and I was questioning life in general  (pretty typical college stuff).  My family thought I didn't believe anymore...I NEVER stopped believing that Jesus Christ was my Savior, but I DID question RELIGION and cultural and societal roles of religion.  I know, I thought I was deep.  And I was trying to balance my scientific knowledge with my faith knowledge. That is a tricky and long road.

Now:  add into that a grandmother on the other side who had a strong faith, reads her Bible constantly, but who is very judgemental.  She told me as a child that I wasn't saved because I wasn't born again, that my denomination wasn't being a true Christian.  And I have had other friends and neighbors pressure me the same way.  That put a whole judgemental spin in me:  I knew I was a Christian, but I became very leery, unbelieving of some other denominations.  I was prejudiced.

In my twenties and thirties we moved several times.  Sometimes I could find my good old comfortable ELCA church (that is another Lutheran tenet--you should be able to find a Lutheran church anywhere in the nation and be able to slip into and recognize the liturgy and feel comfortable and accepted).  Sometimes I couldn't find one.  But I knew I needed fellowship with Christ and other believers, so I attended a variety of churches.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I was finally able to let go of denominational prejudices.  I was able to see that we are all unique individuals with unique and different faith needs.  We all have different backgrounds and comforts in our religion, our worship, our beliefs.  Different personalities express worship and belief in different ways.  Some share, some do not.  Some need constant learning, some do not.  And often, if you look at the personality of a person outside of church, how they deal with everything in their life, they approach faith the same way.

But those of us who believe ARE ALL CHRISTIANS.

In the past three years, I discovered another thing that changed my personal faith.  I was really good at teaching kids about faith, but I wasn't very good at teaching myself.  I gave my faith away to my family and others through too much service--the kind of service that was draining me, not building me. So I pulled back.

This is when the faith art journaling REALLY took off.  And then when business took off.  Because I was sharing, and still building myself.  I was giving more up to Jesus--control, worries, prayers, faith.  I finally let Him lead.  I didn't make the choices, as much as He did.  I quit praying for very specific requests.  I stared praying with confession that I am not perfect and need God in every moment.  I started praying with gratitude.  And I started praying for not this or that thing how I wanted it to be, but for strength, wisdom, discernment, peace and calm, love, patience--the things that would let me believe in God's will and plan, but that would help me on that path.

My faith is renewed.  It has always been there.  ALWAYS.  But it has taken a fresh new spin, it is affecting me in a new way.  Teaching me in a way that fills my current life.  I am sure that it will morph again as my life continues to change with age and changes.  And that is as it should be.

In Christ's peace,

Nicole