I've decided that instead of posting my history and de-conversion to the forums, I'll use this blog to tell my story. I welcome any and all questions and comments that are thoughtful and well-intentioned, but if you just want to rant, criticize, or preach, please put your vitriol someplace else.
I've kept a diary since I was 12 (I'm 47 now), and I've had several blogs over the last 10 years or so, and I have degrees in both fine arts (creative writing) and philosophy. Additionally, I have been in therapy a couple times and I'm currently on Zoloft. I tell you this because it just seems relevant to point out that I have not lead an unexamined life; I have done enough navel-gazing to be aware of most of my own faults, the influences of my childhood, and all that other stuff necessary for self-knowledge. I'm sure I don't know everything, but I'm not blind or ignorant either.
At least, not as much as I used to be.
So... In my beginning, I was a country girl from Arkansas, raised on a 10 acre hobby farm 5 miles south of a small town. When I was born, my older sister was 14 years old; my older brother was 13; my mother was 34; my father was 37; my maternal grandmother, who lived with us, was 60.
At that time, we were Catholic, because my father was from Massachusetts and of French descent. My mother had converted from Baptist to Catholic in order to marry him. She told me the ceremony was in Latin and she had no idea what she'd agreed to. (That was her joke.)
In between my older siblings and me, my mother had had 3 miscarriages. The church said that her little dead babies were in limbo, not in heaven, so by the time I was about 6 we'd stopped going to church. (I'm sure now, looking back, and knowing other things I know about my mother and everything, there must have been other reasons as well, but naming them would be speculation. I have enough to tell just sticking to what I'm confident about without having to make up other tangents.)
Also, by the time I was 6 years old, my older sister had gotten pregnant, runnoft to Oklahoma and got married, her husband had been shot by his own brother over a card game, and my sister and her baby had come back to Arkansas. There was huge family blow-up about custody of the baby - a rift that to this day has never fully healed - but in the end my mother had my sister declared unfit and my mother adopted the baby. The baby was then my little brother. He was 3 years younger than me.
Also, by that time, my older brother had graduated high school - the first in the family to do so - and joined the Navy. He fought in Vietnam; he married; he got out of the Navy; he moved to California. He only visited about ever 10 years, so he's rarely in my story.
My sister, on the other hand, always lived near us and was a regular visitor to our house, but the adoption of my little brother was a never-ever-discussed-but-still-painful family secret that I barely comprehended, being so young. Most of the time, to me, he was just my little brother.
One more detail - at the age of 4 I climbed up on the piano bench and started playing a tune I'd heard on TV. At least, that's what they tell me. So my mother got me piano lessons and I was some sort of prodigy or something and had to perform recitals. I was the youngest member of some fancy national piano association or something or other.... this is only important to the story because it will be another example how how I don't fulfill my parents' expectations and don't "live up to my potential."
What a huge disappointment I turned out to be.
So - I went to public school. A small school where I'm in class with the same 20-25 kids for grades 1 through 6. By second grade, I had quit taking piano lessons because I had paralyzing stage fright and couldn't handle the recitals. Apparently it was impossible to take lessons without recitals.
In 3rd grade, every Monday morning the teacher asked who went to Sunday school and church the day before. Everyone in the class always raised their hands. Except me. My family didn't go to church - because of my mother's feelings about the aforementioned dead babies.
My family believed in God. I knew about God. I could say the Lord's prayer. It's hard to remember how many of the Bible stories I actually knew then and which ones I learned later... but it's not like my family weren't believers. In fact, occasionally I did go to church with my grandmother. She went to a little country church on a back road someplace, where the other old women always made a fuss over me. I don't remember how often she went, but I only went along a few times.
So after I'd been singled out a few times at school for not going to church, I started asking at home: why don't we go to church. And pretty soon, next thing I know, my parents joined a medium-sized Baptist church in town and I had to get dressed up every Sunday, go to the Sunday school where I didn't know any of the other kids, then sit in the huge room of pews and listen to a man talk, then stand up to sing, then sit and listen, etc and so forth.
That brings me to "My First Experience of God." For next time.