Unchurched Church

Unchurched Church

I worked at a church for 18 years … 18 years of Bible studies, services, ministry and leadership. It has now been over a year since I’ve attended a church service at the building I called home. Two decades ago when I went through a Celebrate Recovery Step Study, there was a woman who was in recovery from church. I thought that was an off-beat reason to enter into a recovery program, but it makes perfect sense to me now.

“Unchurched” was the Christian buzz word in the hallways of the church I worked at. We were trying to pull the “unchurched” into church, debated how to reach the “unchurched” , celebrated when an “unchurched” family showed up in church and prayed for those lost “unchurched” men, women and children.  I am now one of the “unchurched” and for now am perfectly OK with that status.

I stepped into the church after my mother’s death, which was profound on many levels. In those final moments when her heart was still beating and the lungs still drawing for breath it was physically obvious that her spirit, the entire essence of her being had already left her cancer battered body and that provoked questions … big questions.  Upon returning home I began seeking answers and the church seemed like the best place to get answers.

I don’t know that I got the answers I was looking for, what I did get was a head full of more questions.  So I asked, and I read, and I listened, and I practiced Christianity.  In the early years of my new and growing faith, my behavior resembled the behavior that used to scare me away from churches and the Bible.  I felt the need to slather everyone around me with my new enthusiasm for Jesus with expectations that they too would see the light and jump on board with me. How could my friends, family and strangers not see the truth?!  That brand of evangelism felt like an ill-fitting pair of shoes that you continue to wear even though they hurt your feet.

Eventually I took off those tight shoes and returned to the familiar and comfortable bare feet that allow me to feel everything I step on or into.  Jesus washed the bare feet of others and allowed others to wash and perfume his own bare feet, taking those sandals off was a radical act of humility and love.  The longer I spent inside the walls of the church, the more I felt like an impostor loudly proclaiming the truth while wearing shoes that were giving me blisters, when what I really longed for was the quiet barefoot Jesus.

Working in ministry for money is not for the faint of heart, it has the potential to really, really mess with your spiritual life.  The inner office wing was filled with regular people like me, some who tried to mask the pain of walking in shoes that no  longer fit. There were times it did not feel like a safe place to be unsure, to question or to disagree with what was being taught as concrete scriptural truth.  We all had real life problems going on and my impending separation and divorce after 20+ years of marriage was a big one for me.

My experience of going through a divorce as a very visible leader in a church was an eye opener.  I generally experienced one of two things, complete avoidance of the topic OR the need to quote every scripture related to marriage that could be found, meant to encourage me to stay in a place that was no longer working. Neither was very helpful.  I knew the biblical stance on marriage, I’d been wrestling with it for years. I actually had the pastor tell me my divorce was “awkward.”  Divorce isn’t awkward, it’s really quite tragic.  I did not take divorce lightly, and I now have great compassion for other families that are drowning in those deep waters.

I appreciate the lessons the mountaintops and valleys of leadership taught me.  And there are steadfast and inspiring individuals whose unwavering faith continue to be a lighthouse.  It is my time in the wilderness, barefoot in the sun. What an adventure it is to discover God, to practice love, kindness and tolerance outside the confines of organized religion.  I take deep breaths, choose my words carefully and think about God a lot.  I still believe in a higher power, I need something outside my finite body to cry out to and be grateful for in this lifetime.

I sometimes walk my dogs past the church on Sunday mornings as the congregation files through the newly landscaped entryway and I smile and say hello to familiar faces.  Some have asked if I am in “fellowship” anywhere and while I am in fellowship all the time I know the real question is, “Are you going to church?”  The answer is “No” and often the response is that they will pray for me, and I wonder what exactly their prayers will be. I don’t tell them that I can always use more grace, forgiveness, and gratitude.

To those that are happily embodied in the life of a church, I applaud you and will be slightly envious of the joy that it brings to your life.  Maybe there will be a day that organized religion brings that same solace to my life but today I am headed out into the world, barefoot on rocky ground.

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Keep Looking Upward,

Hillary D.

Trailers and 1st Tattoos

Trailers and 1st Tattoos

I now own two trailers. You might remember my little travel trailer that was ripped down and rebuilt with a new back wall,  new floors, box cushions, curtains and paint.  The early project looked daunting.

Putting that little tin can back together taught me a lot, and when the end looked near heavy rains came through and there was STILL a leak!  Water is so tricky. A little more head scratching and some good advice from neighbors and she is water tight. It is going to be a great little vehicle to adventure in.

 

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The demolition days
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No more 1970 interior!

Over Memorial Day weekend I grabbed my trusty sidekick and we headed to Portland to pick up the tiny house foundation.  Coming down from Mount Hood we realized that the brakes on the truck might not be great, (the results of a fire tower trip last summer.)

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Soaking up sun at Timberline Lodge

A little seed of doubt grew into nerves when we rolled up to Iron Eagle Trailers and they brought out my 8’6″x 24′ double axle trailer.  I never would of thought a couple hundred square feet would feel SO BIG!  They threw the correct hitch on and gave us the low-down on towing an empty trailer.  My truck didn’t have the brake hookup for the trailer brakes so we were going to rely on the Ford’s questionable stopping power for over 800 miles.

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Glad I’m not alone in Portland!

Bill took the wheel to navigate us out of Portland and onto the straightest highway we can find.  With the vehicle we were well over 30′ long and in one block we learned that empty trailers bounce, lane changes require lots of space and tight corners make you sweat. We left Portland late enough in the day that the holiday traffic had subsided and the highways were blessedly empty.  Bill drove for 8 hours with one perfect stop to gas up, meaning no need to back up or turn around, and I did my best to stay awake.  We had a new awareness of the roadways, “Look at the size of the load that guy is hauling!” and made it back to Sandpoint safe and sound and it turns out the truck brakes are just fine.

Backing the trailer into the build spot was tricky and took a couple of “do-overs” but was ultimately successful and it is sitting there waiting for building supplies.  The school I work at has wrapped up another eventful year and in the next few weeks I will be tackling the installation of the sub-floor…the Trek to Tiny is real!

I turned 53 this month, and got my first tattoo.  My daughter has long wanted a mother/daughter tattoo and we both have two simple words, Be Kind, now permanently attached to our forearm.  My daughter effortlessly rolled with her new artwork, but I am a little startled every time I catch a glimpse of it and have been wearing long sleeves as I don’t exactly “boldly own it” quite yet but I am getting there.  I think getting a tattoo changes you a wee bit, it’s one of those things no one who has tattoos tells you, or maybe it’s my personal perception.  Just like I noticed every load being hauled down the road, I now am more aware of the art people have chosen to adorn themselves with.

Christian circles will tell you it’s wise to be mindful of what you pray for.  The only way to learn patience is to be faced with impatient situations, to practice forgiveness you must experience injustice and gratitude is born through loss.  Daily opportunities to “Be Kind” are also hard to ignore when your mantra is visibly tattooed to your arm.  The message to myself and others is sound, and I’m sure with time I will be less startled when I see the reflection in the yoga studio mirrors.  Bill thinks my “ink” may not be done yet and the message is really, Be Kindergarten … his humor is my sunshine.

I want to post some videos of the tiny house build as I would like my kids, friends and family to really see how this all plays out.  So far I’ve made a couple of really awkward, unwatchable clips so we’ll see how that goes.

Until next time,

Be Kind.

Hillary D.

 

“My Favorite Kitchen”

“My Favorite Kitchen”

The arrival of my 19 yr. old daughter has brought a new buzz to the household.  She only has a short 8 weeks to catch up with her gal pals, family,  and other locals before the next adventure begins through Thailand and on to a work visa approved year in New Zealand.  The addition of these lovely young adults on top of my son’s growing bevy of high school friends makes for a lively front room and kitchen.  I listen to the chatter, the stories,  the volume battles between the TV programs and the Echo streaming music, and the laughter and I feel very, very happy.

My current home is modest by US standards and comfortable.  Located on a busy thru street I see the neighborhood going by with traffic, people, bikers, dogs and the occasional moose from my bedroom window.

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Watching the morning come alive.

Two cooks can navigate my small U-shaped kitchen on a normal day.  Last night there were two of us cooking, dogs underfoot waiting for scraps, two girls on the floor leaning against the fridge and opposing dishwasher, and two more on the love seat in the hallway with still more kids around the corner hanging on the couch. Bill and I sang and chopped vegetables, had a glass of red wine and prepared a great vegan meal for everyone in the house and whoever else might come through the front door.  Preparing great food and feeding others has long been one of my passionate acts of generosity.  For years my grocery bill has been the highest cost of living I have and I am grateful to be able to share my cooking with the people in my life. I love to hear, “It smells so good in here!”

One of the girls was serving up a hot plate of veggie hash browns and said, “This is my favorite kitchen.  Not just because there is great food, but we get to do this”,  nodding to the cozy scene of everyone sharing an informal meal. What a great compliment for a woman who has spent a significant amount of time knee-deep in grocery shopping, recipes, ingredients, and dirty dishes.

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Alouette gets in on the action.

I thought about this scene as I was making design decisions with my tiny house. So many tiny homes have the kitchen tucked in at one end under a loft, great for one cook but not for the hub of activity my kitchen always seems to be.  I have placed my kitchen in the center of my design under the highest ceilings.  I can picture a couple of people able to cook while others sit on the couch, the stairs and at the convertible table that is still evolving in my head.

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Still making decisions, but the design is coming along!

I bought my first power tools, really … MY OWN tools.  Whenever I take a step in the right direction it feels big, even when it is simple. I charged them up and am now ready to sink some screws into boards!

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The start of greater things to come!

Everything is turning green and about to burst into bloom, even with the continued bouts of rain it is my signal to move from the indoors out.  It is going to be a busy, busy season first finishing the camper renovation and then picking up the house trailer in Oregon over Memorial Day weekend. Ready … Set … Go!

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Keeping my eyes on the goal,

Hillary D.

 

Downsized Parenting

Downsized Parenting

As I minimize on The Trek to Tiny, really strip everything back to the basics, I realize that I am also learning how to downsize my parenting.  Letting go of clothes, and furniture, dishes, and knick-knacks, as well as hundreds of photographs is easy in comparison of letting go of my kids.  It happens … they grow up.

There were years of  wiping tears and noses and bottoms, folding endless loads of laundry, reading “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” over and over and watching “The Land Before Time” enough that I had a solid affection for Littlefoot the Apatosaurus, and wondering if I would ever sleep again.

During the home school years we made a mess in the kitchen with art, science and cooking.  I made everyone cry teaching them math, and we got through it together. We explored the mountains and the ocean and loved our log home in the country with dogs, cats and gardens.  I spent what felt like forever skiing the bunny hill on Schweitzer teaching the three of them to make “french fries” and “pizza wedges” while sliding downhill.  We practiced Taekwondo, learning forms, and weapons and self-defense.  Sweating our way through the stress of belt tests the four of us discovered how to encourage and persevere.  Taking on an exchange student for a year added another culture and more love to the mix.

The summer before our family life unraveled with a divorce we sang and danced our way through “The Music Man” unable to erase the hours of rehearsals from our psyche.

“We can be cold
As our falling thermometers in December
If you ask about our weather in July.”

“Iowa Stubborn” and all the other catchy tunes brought us closer to our community and we had opening night jitters and closing night elation.  Other productions followed with same excitement and late night rehearsals.

The kids made it through high school, learning that “this too shall pass” when the stress and social challenges of being a teenager become overwhelming.  The youngest will be entering in to his senior year this fall, the empty nest is looming. I’m so grateful for the adventures we’ve shared, the slums of India, beautiful back-country scenery and impossibly long bike rides.

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Strolling the markets of India.
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We rode 80 miles in the rain!
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My back-country buddy.

And so, I am learning to downsize my parental worries and tasks, and telling myself everything is OK when what feels like long stretches of no communication become the norm as my kids build their young adult lives and independently discover the world in which they live.  The fact they are able to do those very things means the parenting wasn’t perfect but it was successful.

For now I enjoy it when the kids trickle in and out of the house for visits, and soak up this last remaining year with the baby of the family.  Truth be told, I am excited about the next chapter for my life!

Be Well,

Hillary D.

Freak Out!

Freak Out!

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.   Steve Jobs

I spend my days with teenagers, lots of teenagers. When sickness settles in the area I am sure to be exposed.  Sometimes you get lucky and avoid all the nastiness and other times it just can’t be avoided.  I’ve been home from work for a couple of days so that tells you where my luck ran out.  I’m a little stir crazy with time to think, and this project, the deconstruction of my life in order to reassemble it into something new has its moments.  Times of pure excitement and energy to move forward and other less enticing periods of panic and fear.  I’ve been here before, fearful of change,  because what if the outcome is worse than the current status?  I know there are people out there that think I’m crazy for wanting to live in a tiny house, and there are days that I believe them.  In those quiet spaces where I can hear myself think, the voice that resides in my comfort zone gets loud and sounds something like this…

“You’ll hate living in a small space.”

“This is a crazy idea.”

“What a stupid waste of time and money.”

“You’re not smart enough or strong enough to pull this off.”

“What if this is a giant disaster and mistake.”

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The sentry that has guarded my door for years gives me courage.

This grand step into a tiny house is not something being forced upon me. I could easily continue on with life as I know it, making safe, well-traveled adjustments as needed.  There are a lot of moving pieces designing this future lifestyle, the actual house sometimes seems the most straightforward.  When the voice of fear is taking over my head, I take a deep Ujjayi ocean breath and think about what is good.

  1. The number of discarded items is growing steadily, over 1200 items so far and I don’t miss any of them.
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My entire laundry room and garage is starting to look like this…   big “FREEcyle”  sale in the spring!

2.   I’m taking better care of myself striving for greater mental and physical stamina.

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YUM.

3.  My emotions are open to whatever they need to be.

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Happy Girl.
  1. I have moments of that “peace that passes all understanding” which indicates to me that I am spiritually on the right track.
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A higher power leads the way.

I think the fear is attached to the subtle hints of the spring that is coming soon…a little more light everyday, much friendlier winter temperatures and lots of birdsong.  Spring will also bring action.

1.The purchase of a trailer…I haven’t figured that one out yet, but have done my research and am narrowing it down.  Still have a couple of local options to explore.

2. Quotes on a material list … I sorta have one of those.

3.   Decisions on windows and front door so framing details can be worked out.

4.  Figuring out my “power budget” so I can price out a solar system.

4.  The organization of the build site …

AKKK … the list goes on and on,  opening the door wide for doubt. I haven’t invested much in the way of money yet.

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Plans and resources
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Love these!

The greatest investment has come in the countless hours going into research and design. I’ve taped an outline of the house inside my house and am feeling out the movement of 286 sqft … and loving the design challenges!  I doodled the featured photo while on a beach in Mexico years ago, I must have needed reminders back then as well.  Fear is a giant brick wall slowing down everything in my path. Time to climb over the fear as the Trek to Tiny gains altitude.

Remember friends … kindness begins at home!

Hillary D.

Downward Dog with Dogs

Downward Dog with Dogs

If you are reading this from outside of Northern Idaho, then there is something you should know about one of America’s “Top Ten Small Towns” …. we have WINTER.  Sometimes it looks like this …

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Winter Snow and Sunshine

 

And sometimes it looks like this …

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Fun to follow when this freezes over.

The winter rain that comes after large amounts of snowfall creates one big sloppy, frozen, snow berm bound, school cancelled landscape.  I actually don’t mind the shoveling.  When I lived on acreage in the country I would shovel paths into the woods. This winter I’ve dug out over and over my car, the truck, the deck, the walks and even shoveled  a racetrack for Vita to express her extroverted puppiness.

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Dog Track

It only took one wrong toss of water laden snow to send a message to the left lower back that all is not well.  Something tweaked, not serious but relentlessly annoying.  This recent twist has brought me to my yoga mat multiple times throughout the day as I did not quite feel ready for the hot yoga room.  I am learning be a better listener when my body speaks, I am learning how to gently unlock the tension in my life and I am learning how to downward dog with dogs.

Vita sees me hit the mat and assumes “floor time = playtime” and immediately pounces into the Sun Salutation.  She sits on my legs while I Cat/Cow and the restorative Child’s Pose is a clear signal to lick my face and nibble on my hair.  The pinnacle of fun is Downward Facing Dog where the two dogs immediately see a perfect tent for wrestling under.

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Post-yoga nap.

Today I will venture into a hot yoga class and work the muscles a little deeper and as always it will be an invigorating, peaceful experience and I will miss my furry yoga buddies when I Down Dog.

Namaste.

Hillary D.

Dishwater Tears

Dishwater Tears

This winter of snowdrifts and deep cold has been a blessing.  Like all big winter years I’ve had some challenges, my furnace became stingy with heat output and the hot water heater took note and is withholding hot water.   I even climbed up in to a very awkward attic space to look at the furnace (thank you yoga!) thinking there might be an obvious part lying on the attic insulation.  There wasn’t,  and if there was I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to do next, but it was an adventure!  I have no idea how that furnace will someday be replaced with its given location.

These normal home owner issues always bring my head back to the tiny house, and the potential issues that water and heat might face.  The extra time indoors has allowed me to research and plan. It reminds me of pre-trip planning when I’m traveling somewhere new, it’s part of the journey and can save you many headaches before arriving to the destination.  If I had jumped right into building the plans I had purchased I wouldn’t have the redesign that better suits me.

I spent my Friday night tackling the craft cupboard, which holds many clues that we were a former home schooling family.  How wonderful that I work for a school that has two amazing art classrooms, a pottery room AND a Makerspace…I know exactly where all these cast-off art supplies can be put to good use.

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Piles of extra art supplies

Doing dishes over winter break started to get under my skin.  The dishwasher seemed to be endlessly full as well as the sink and the dish drainer … we have too many dishes. I emptied all the cupboards and started a new discard corner in my daughters empty room.  My kids will each receive a box of really pretty items when it comes time to set up their own living space.

I won’t have a dishwasher in the tiny house, so after bringing down the sheer number of dishes we use I decided to go on a dishwasher ban to see how washing dishes by hand day in and day out sits with me.   I ask Alexa to play some music, light a candle on the windowsill, and fill the sink with hot soapy water (when the hot water heater is feeling generous).  Turning this daily chore into an opportunity to think has turned doing dishes into therapeutic motion, there are days the dishwater mixes with tears.

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My therapy office.

I’ll be just fine without the modern dishwasher, both my dishes and my emotions will get a good scrubbing.  I will however need a good supply of this awesome product as my hands take the brunt of cold and hot.

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The best hand cream ever!

Thanks for all the great support and feedback as I share this trek, looking forward to posting my first construction photos in the summer sun.

Be Well Friends.

Hillary D.