Friday, December 11, 2020

A New Tradition

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

fluffy ~ chestnuts ~ sparkling ~ mantle ~ jolly ~ reindeer

It was submitted by:


I'm not a traditional Christmas kind of person which, if you know me at all, probably doesn't come as much of a shock.

What will is that I'll be attending church all month for advent and if there's a Christmas service I'll probably do that too.

But first...

I live in the Deep South, and it's hot as Satan's balls 90% of the year, it seems, so roasting chestnuts in front of an open fire really ain't a thing we do down here. I don't even have a fireplace or a mantle to go with it for stockings to be hung on, and even if I did, my cats would find a way to pee in them or rip them down or hide within them such lovely gifts as hairballs or pieces of rodents, a spider leg or two.

My cats are also the reason I don't do a tree with a fluffy skirt stacked with wrapped gifts or sparkling lights or garland or fancy ornaments. I do not have the time or inclination to pick the damn thing up 27 times a day or vacuum up the needles they pull out or clean up the vomit after they eat parts of things they shouldn't eat. The longer I've been sick with chronic fatigue syndrome the less I've had any desire to drag all this stuff out only to have to put it back up when I've barely recovered from cleaning it all up every single day.

I give my kid his presents as soon as they come in because I can't keep gifts a secret, and even though we do eat with family on the eve of and the day, it's never been particularly important for me. I've never been the kind of religious person that does the whole holy day thing. I'm not religious at all, and the days that seem to have the most meaning for others never have meant those things to me. Parts of holidays are fun, and I pick and separate out which things I enjoy and which things I'd just be doing because it's what people are expected to do. I'm fine with keeping my traditions to watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Elf and Home Alone (1 and 2 and sometimes 3) and making cheese pennies for Christmas Eve. I like watching old cartoon Christmas episodes and buying candy canes in random flavors to try and before things got really extra tough this year, I loved searching for the perfect gift for someone and watching their face light up in excitement when they opened it and saw what it was. Alas, 2020 will be a year of skipping that one no matter how much I enjoy it.

Something good did happen this year though that will help and has helped ease some of the tensions and burdens of this chaotic mess, and I think I'm a better person for it.

I took my atheist ass to church.

Ok, it's not that simple. I don't know if you may have seen the church signs of the UCC in Clackamas County, Oregon that often go viral on Facebook, but I stumbled across them several months ago. Some of the best ones used scripture to discuss acceptance of the gay community. One said "our transgender siblings have heartbeats." Another talked about jesus as a refugee. This was in stark contrast to the far right evangelical christianity I had grown up around down here--the church beliefs that so many used to tell me my kind of love is a sin and hell-worthy. I'd grown up around people that used their religion as a weapon at every possible opportunity, and I had a lot of old wounds and feelings and, let's face it, trauma associated with christianity and religion as a whole. I followed the page out of curiosity over the signs figuring I'd see more I could share, and I did. But I also saw a clip of a Sunday sermon and there was Pastor Adam, jolly as he almost always is, talking about love for the LGBTQIA community with a pride flag hanging behind him. He talked seriously and openly about a Jesus who accepted everyone on the margins of society and that, in fact, that's all Jesus was about--love. I can't quote him verbatim, and I don't think I should because I could never do the words justice. You have to see it for yourself. His point though was about how wrong everyone else was who used the Bible to condemn.

I bawled.

There's no shame in admitting it. Suddenly here were these old wounds being soothed in a way I didn't know I needed and at a time in my life when I thought I'd gotten past all that. Here I was feeling so much...vindication is the right word I suppose. Or maybe not but it will do. I started out with a couple videos, and then I read his articles on the church website and then some more on the site for the Raven Foundation. And I don't mind telling you I was an absolute mess every single time. Every one of them. The kind of love and acceptance of who I am that Pastor Adam talked about is not what I got growing up, but it's what I deserved, and I see that more clearly than ever now. There was never *any* reason to withold it or to judge. Never.

Of course seeing the sermons after the fact just led to me wanting to watch them in real time which I can do because the pandemic kind of forced the church to go virtual. Every Sunday morning I see the post that says everyone is welcome--atheist, jewish, christian, gay, trans, straight, pagan...anyone and everyone gets a seat at the table--and I smile and get a little excited looking forward to taking part and (shocker!) sometimes even commenting. The first day I watched live, someone commented they are a trans witch who took communion with an Arizona tea and a piece of birthday cake, and received so much love and welcoming...and I knew I'd be okay. Everyone is welcome to take communion, too, by the way. Nothing is required to have a seat at the table and break bread together. 

The sermons themselves with their messages about love and acceptance and peace...about those on the margins being who Jesus represented, about universal healthcare and living wages and housing as a right...these are things that are important to me, deeply so, and to see them represented in arguably one of the most important and misused books in all of history in a way that was denied to me my entire lifetime has been transformative. This church and this Pastor never say the people who used religion to hurt me are not "real" Christians and never deny that this evangelical kind of christianity has unfortunately become mainstream. They call it out. Loudly and proudly and often. They shine a light on all the ways the church and Jesus and the bible are and have been used to oppress. It's real work for justice and not flippant thoughts and prayers. What this church and Pastor Adam particularly are doing to address the issues the religious right have brought to our political system are important...possibly vital. 

And it's what I needed in one of the most stressful years yet. It kept me going when I didn't know how I would. Many people can say the same. In fact, I see them say the same a lot of Sundays. 

So I guess I have a new tradition for the holidays. Perhaps the best one yet. Ok nothing can beat Elf but perhaps a close second.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

Wandering Web Designer

On the Border

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

The Crazy Mama Llama


  1. Amen.
    I once wrote a post about religion, saying it should be a blanket not a weapon. I am happy to read this post today, Jenniy, to know that there are some (at least one) religious leaders taking religion back to what it was always supposed to be, and giving what they need to those who need it.

  2. Christmas is definitely not my favorite holiday and I didn't put a tree up for the last 3 years, but this year I did and I'm enjoying it (I don't have cats but my daughter is going through that hell). As the grands get older I have to try and make it special for them because as you know they will be grown ups soon and find out how much it really sucks. I'm not religious either.

  3. It is amazing how something like that comes out of the blue. It is hard for us to find a church we like because of our varying beliefs and the fact that we have two kids on the rainbow spectrum. Maybe some day...