The one where I try to sum up my 2013

This was the year I regained my senses (at least sight and hearing), became a Catholic, and reconnected with high school classmates that I have not seen in 39 years.

That about sums it up.

The forbidden Wild Cheetos tree, the fruit of which, inspires Steelcase designers

The forbidden Wild Cheetos tree, the fruit of which, inspires Steelcase designers

Ok, if you insist, here are some details. First, the senses thing. The world had very quickly become dark and blurry in 2012. I went to see my new eye doctor (a BCHS grad) and had cataract surgery on both eyes before February. What an amazing procedure – but, I hate to think about the first person who had it, “You’re doing WHAT to my eyeball?”  I also developed some hearing problems that I didn’t take care of right away because I kinda liked having the world be not so loud. But, fixed that in the last couple weeks. I realized that I am more distracted by sounds than sights – hence, the beagle running through the house is OK, but his barking/howling bothers me.

 

Beagles, as a species, would be extinct if they weren't so cute.

Beagles, as a species, would be extinct if they weren’t so cute.

Second, it took a year for me to become an official Catholic, and I have so much more to learn. I love the Mass and have found comfort and power in the Rosary. I have met amazing people on my journey – Father Mel, Rhonda, Dan and Betty, Gene, and my sponsor, Linda (a BCHS classmate). I find that I love Ordinary Time. Perhaps I’m getting old, but I also appreciate vanilla ice cream, plain bagels with plain cream cheese, black coffee, plain chicken and rice, unflavored potato chips, simple dark chocolate. Ordinary – no frills.

And……I'm in!

And……I’m in!

Now, when I’m asked about my time on staff at an Evangelical megachurch, I can respond, “Well, I’m Catholic now,” and leave it at that. (It was the staff retreats at St. Mary’s Seminary that got me started if you want to know, not the shaming or the pressure to reinvent Christianity every week.)

Third, in a project that went way beyond what I had imagined, I started hunting down and meeting with members of my high school graduating class. I thought, with our 40th reunion looming, and with my returning from Chicago after several decades, what a great excuse to reconnect. Not everyone is on Facebook and not everyone has email.

It's good to have friends/classmates in high places.

It’s good to have friends/classmates in high places.

I found and talked to about 35 so far, out of a class of 109 graduates. We’ve had two small get-togethers and I started a newsletter. I’ve also been so impressed with the changes in my little hometown that I’ve been researching and writing about it (see my blog at www.cynthiahoppe.com).

The summer went by way too fast and I got too few walks on my beach.

Not my beach. Saugatuck, where we go when being around people is OK.

Not my beach. Saugatuck, where we go when being around people is OK.

I am discovering other county parks in the area (thanks to Bob, a BCHS classmate). And stay tuned (for those of you who know me at all, you better sit down) – as I start as a substitute teacher (there is, of course, a story). Yeah, just gonna drop that one there and wish you all a great 2014.

 

Miles to go before I tweet

I don’t know what you use your Twitter account for, but I use mine, mainly, for gathering clever or inspirational quotations. I follow thought leaders in politics and christianity and writing. But not the big ones. I don’t follow the White House or the Pope or John Grisham. I follow people I have met, or would like to meet. I follow people that have helpful blogs. Only a couple of my friends are on Twitter and they don’t tweet much.
Every time I see a quote I like, I grab a notecard, write it down, and put it on a stack that I, at semi-regular intervals, enter on my computer. Then they are available for my Points to Ponder. Points to Ponder was a regular feature in my email updates to my volunteers at Seeds Bookstore. The other feature was Tips for Pain Avoidance. The tips were for the volunteers to change something they were doing that was causing me pain in the form of extra work. But, sometimes it was just general admonitions, like reminders to use sunscreen or that a Barbie doll with lots of hair spray strapped onto a sidewalk skate and pushed on the sidewalk could cause sparks that would set Barbie ablaze. Or so I’ve heard.
So, I will leave you with a point to ponder. Kintsukuroi: to repair with gold; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

Losing my Religion

Let me start by defending all the trained ministry people who have been, or are currently, in my life. None of this is their fault.
And I want to also say right upfront, all the opinions expressed by me are mine alone, from observation and experience, and these writings may not accurately represent the belief system from whence my observations come. Hope that satisfies my lawyer.

My spiritual journey has taken these roads:
-Brought up in a Protestant Reformed Church (Corinth Reformed). Went every Sunday with my parents who never mentioned Christianity at all during the week.
-Went to college, Michigan State, and had secularism and evolution beaten into my head.
-Moved to Chicago and got involved in the human potential movement. Learned much about people and different schools of psychology – not so much about God.
-Moved to Pennsylvania and in the midst of much pain, found a tiny Reformed church in walking distance. They let me sing with them.
-Moved back to Chicago and started attending a non-denominational evangelical church – Willow Creek Community Church. Learned much, grew much, was on staff for 6 years. Went on retreats at St. Mary on the Lake, a seminary for priests. Started having more Catholic people and experiences in my life.
-Took solitude retreats at “my beach” over here in Michigan. The only place I could journal. The place I would go to listen to God.
-Needed to find a smaller church. Willow’s auditorium seats 7,000 and gives me headaches. Go to a new church nearby, The Chapel. Lots of people I know and good messages. Went regularly until I took a job in Christian Retail and was required to work every Saturday night and Sunday, so I could never attend church. This was not a good time.
-Started attending a small Catholic church with a friend. Felt calm and at home like I hadn’t felt in a long time. Except for the Easter weekend services. I swore I would become protestant again for that weekend only. More on that another time.
-Move back to Michigan, back to Corinth. I love seeing everyone again after 30 years, but I am restless and the church services are frustrating me.
-Get married to a Catholic. Attend Mass with him. Love it – well, except for the music. The words are wonderful. Start the process of becoming a Catholic. There are some obstacles to be dealt with.

That is the bare outline of my path so far. Wanted to give you context for future blog postings on my experiences and observations of an Evangelical entering the Catholic world.

My hope is that as you read this and my other postings, you will look at your own journey and see new richness. I’d love to hear your comments.

Finding friends at the Family Fare

One thing I’ve been noticing is the people in my life.  I would have never guessed the roles they would play when I first met them.  I am learning to pay more attention to every interaction and look for surprises.  A current example:  Linda.

Linda and I went to high school together, but we did not hang out together. It was a small school and everyone just knew everyone else – at least to match a name and face. So, Linda and I graduate and go our separate ways and have very different lives.  Thirty-eight years later we meet again.  I see her at the grocery store and we say we should get together sometime – maybe next spring with some others from our class.  Then she sees me at the church she attends. That’s comforting because I am going to my husband’s church – not the one I grew up in – and it feels good to see someone familiar.  The church is a Catholic church and I am taking classes to become Catholic.  Linda became a Catholic 36 years ago when she got married.  Another thing in common.

I find out that I need a sponsor for the next Sunday at Mass.  A sponsor that will go with me through this exploration process and challenge me.  For the next year or two.  It’s suggested I ask Linda.  I don’t even know what I’m asking of her and I don’t know what’s going on in her life, or even if she’d do that for someone she hardly knows.  I ask her, stammering and nervous.  She replies that she’d love to be my sponsor and what time does she have to be there.  Wow.  That’s how this particular journey starts.  Nothing I could have planned.  Just trying to pay attention and be amazed at each of our stories and the parts we get to play in others.

Observations of a suburban anthropologist

While there are many things going on in my life right now, a theme seems to be that I get to see things with new eyes.  There is the literal part – I am getting “new eyes” over the next couple weeks  as I have my cataract surgery.

But, also, I am in the strange place where I can observe and compare different “tribes”.  I have returned to the small town I grew up in after 30 years in the big city and area of Chicago.  I am seeing kids I grew up with and have had almost no contact with since high school and I get to hear their stories.

And, if that is not enough, I am an evangelical in the process of becoming a Catholic.

There is so much material here.  Sometimes I have to go lie quietly in a dark room to get my bearings.