When Church Doesn’t Feel Like Community

My Christian walk and my personal self has changed and grown in the last ten years. I think that’s healthy. In some ways I’ve matured for better and for worse and my lens of self and the world has a decade more of experience behind it.

What happened this decade? Well, around 23/24 I decided I wanted to own my faith and not continue in my childhood church. I wanted an identity outside of my family. I didn’t want to attend where my parents did and the church I grew up in was fairly toxic to me and limited me in a very patriarchal, family-forward, cliquey way.

My new church felt great. The gospel was still preached soundly, there were more working and single people, and the congregation was large enough that they had branched out to more ministry opportunities and no one felt encumbered to do 50 things a year just to keep ministries afloat. My brother and future SIL even plugged in to the young adults group and eventually the head of it officiated their marriage ceremony.

But like many churches, my church changed too, just like I did. They cut budgeting and lost a lot of young adults in my age range. The younger folk went to other churches where they felt their age group was better represented and cared for. They moved on because my church didn’t seem to have a space for them anymore. Like many churches, it then died down in numbers a bit, and became families with kids and mostly seniors 55+.

In my first few years, with the budget cuts, the associate pastor and his family made a critical decision to stop being paid by the church and leave to help finances. I had become close to their family and it was a deep cut for me. Just like that they were gone suddenly. I then plugged in and flourished helping in kids ministry. Then, last year, with covid impacting the budget again, the church made a hurtful sweep of layoffs and laid off EVERY paid woman staff member: our minister of music, our children’s pastor, her assistant children’s ministry person, and a secretary. No men, only women. Women who held power in the church. Women I looked up to. It felt purposeful. It felt hurtful. All the representation of women strong in their faith who had pursued it as a career were gone. Half of them were my closest church friends I had built a relationship with. Again, gone in what felt like overnight. On top of that? Our lead pastor decided to take a big pay cut and retire early, passing on his flock to the hands of a very capable but very young pastor who isn’t even 30 yet.

With all of that came a creep. A them vs us creep. A church is essential so forget your concerns creep. A family forward, patriarchal creep. My old lead pastor repeatedly complained so many times last year that Millennials were bad and even mocked us saying we have safe spaces in colleges where we can “hold puppies and be pat on the head.” The new young guy has been bringing political points to the pulpit to garner the support of the older attendees and distance himself from his age. My dear church turned into the place I decided to leave at 23.

I’ve learned I am too “woke”, too feminist, too moderate, too open to wanting those who don’t look “christianese” being part of our congregation, to belong there. But I still have my faith. I still securely press on for the goal. So what now?

I’m caught between choosing a more relaxed denomination where I may not doctrinally agree with everything but feel more welcome, a more milk than bread congregation where I can’t learn much but all are welcome, or sticking it out at a place I’ve outgrown again.

I want a church family, not just a house of worship. But I’ve evolved too much. Some may think I’m a fake or falling for the world’s progressive antics and straying. I’m here to yell into this little void that I am working so hard to hold on to hope and my personal relationship with God is not going anywhere. I just want to belong. Somewhere.

The Millennial Eldest Daughter

It is tough to be
the eldest daughter
and a millennial

My parents had me later
in their life
and for better or worse
the same is in my cards

Nearing mid-thirties
with no mortgage
no spouse
a meager life savings

Dad, I’ll give you
all my time —
that’s the wealth
I can afford you

Mom, I’ll give you
all my attention —
that’s the investment
I can afford you

Please hold on to your
health and memories
so I can show you
what is becoming

Please hold on to
hope that I’ll make
it one day too

I have so little to show
but just want show you
I’ll figure out how to
If you’ll hold on a bit longer

I can’t give back what
You gave me
But I’ll try to
Give you all I’ve got
While you’re still here

Prioritizing Sleep 2.0

Most of my life I’ve treated sleep as a bonus. If I get more of it, great. If I don’t, well, other things needed to be done. College was the worst. Between ministry, student groups, and college workload I got 2-4 hours on average. Some nights I got as little as an hour and my eyes would start to blur. Go figure I ended up with adrenal type fatigue and thyroid issues in my mid twenties partially in result to my go-go-go lifestyle. Sleep definitely affects my health and well being more than I gave it credit. Quarantine life has shown me that sleep is important, and the secret I didn’t know but should have been a DUH moment is that other people prioritize sleep and keep their schedules slim during the week if they work a typical 9-5. I need to adapt to that thought process stat.

I used to find worth in being busy (super cringe when I think about that too long). I felt like my best self when I was contributing time and effort to doing things in my community. I still take great joy in ministry and volunteering and helping where I can, but not being able to do much of that for an entire year, I see the flip side and the mental unloading of not saying yes to things. A lot of people don’t have commitments. Period. That alarmed me. Growing up and being in church and church activities I’ve always had part of a weekend blocked and sometimes multiple nights a week doing different events. It felt natural. As I’ve grown older and experienced more live I’ve seen the prudence of giving things more thought before commitment and not saying yes to everything. That part got easier to figure out. But sleep? That was still hurting. And it still is. So, I’m making changes to my outlook and habits.

If I’m honest, it wasn’t until last year that I started seeing sleep as recharging my battery and that I was relying on “fast charging” too much. My fitbit helps me track actual time asleep and I noticed that even when I set my alarm for 7 hours it didn’t mean I got 7 full hours of sleep. And some nights, I was more restful or scored better in deep, REM, and light sleep and others I did not. Not only was I not getting great sleep, factors contributed to it.

A common theme I found with business people and bloggers I followed is that many of them didn’t do as much during the work week. Again, probably a DUH to many, but it was like a light bulb turned on to me. You mean…I’m not supposed to get 7-8 hours worth of things done on a weekday? Really? I stopped to think about my habits and true enough, my Monday-Friday was TOO full of things I imposed on myself or trying to get too much done with commitments or family. If I got home at 5-5:30, or did outside errands until 7, I have to curate what I deem worthwhile to do so I can invest more time in sleep. This is so simple in theory but so difficult in practice. Things like cooking dinner every night just aren’t feasible when I have 4 hours until bedtime from doing outside errands. On nights like this, I need leftovers or a heat-and-eat or a protein shake dinner so I’m not wasting an hour cooking and a half hour cleaning. If I wanted to do something out of my block schedule, I need to spread it out instead of trying to conquer it in one evening. I only have 5.5 hours of time between work and sleep, so I need to choose things wisely and not always fill it up.

Laura’s Basic M-F

6:30am Wake up
7:45am Drive to work
8-5 Work
11pm Proposed bedtime
12:15am-1am When I usually get to bed

What I’ll be doing to help retrain myself:

– Setting a 10:30pm alarm to consciously finish up what I’m doing and get into wind down mode
– Monitor factors that provide me best sleep (avoiding blue lights, not dressing too warm/cool, etc)
– Prioritizing less during the work week and spreading things out better or making smaller daily habits
– Moving some chores to weekend work
– Continuing to keep a super light load until I am getting the rest I need and finding good balance


One of the few places of solace right now is an escape to the beach. I can actually clear my head there. And recently, given all the childcare my household has tackled for my brother and his wife, these moments of quiet and natural ocean sounds are healing. Since Covid is still problematic and my county is still high on the list, it’s one of the places open air enough to enjoy with a friend or my boyfriend at a personable distance. J and I took off Friday to have a beach day and enjoy Lunar New Year. We got to the beach mid afternoon. It was breezy and cool, being the middle of February and all. The waves almost had a milky feel in reflecting the overcast but sunny sky.

There were very few people at the strip of coastline we set up at, but a few people walked the edge of the water so we were much higher up out of the path. A little dog, maybe 8 pounds, comes running in a serpentine “do I, do I not?” style up to us and goes and licks J’s hand. He runs back to his mom and daughter family duo, then comes back to J. Of course, my reaction is, “Yay, dog! Cute dog!” His Mom and Sister come closer to us but keep a safe distance. The Mom compliments J. She says it’s the first time in 5+ years that Brody has felt comfortable and safe approaching a male. J is a large guy. He looks like he could be a football player. 5’10”, solidly built, and probably even more gigantic to this little dog who has feared men most of his life yet out of the blue decides to do something brave and trust this one. He comes back again, gives him another love lick, and J gives him his hand to sniff and slowly and cautiously moves to pet him and Brody complies. My heart swells at the joy of this moment. I think, in my head, “That’s right Brody, you trust him and so do I. He’s a good man, and now man’s best friend approved.”

J is actually a self-confessed cat person, but he and I are both allergic (me, nearly deathly). He has always joked about tiny and small dogs being borderline annoying and yappy. It was a relief to see how he warmed up to this little fella. After Brody and his family left, he confided to me that if he were to be a dog owner in the future he’d want a cute little lap dog like that over a big dog. I was once again taken back at this confession. “The kind you make fun of for being yappy or foo-foo?!” I exclaimed. “Yeah,” he said. I shot back a sly smile and told him I would have never guessed. I told him one day if we got a dog as a married couple, a tiny cute lap dog, we might just have to honor him with the name Brody. He smiled and told me he’d like that.

2020 and All its Trials

Here’s the craziness that’s happened to me personally in 2020 so far:

– The pandemic happened
– Some of the paid ministry peeps I loved got let go.
– Churching at home
– My beloved dog Sally died
– Overworked with childcare needs up multiple times a week
– A hurricane with my namesake affected people in the US
– Stuck at home being respectful for health and safety of myself and others

I am not okay but I am surviving. This year is the worst case scenario of I need to drop everything for me time. I’m grateful for my health and my household’s wellness, and I’m thankful for my job stability and that they allowed me to work from home for a time. But this year has been a hard one, damnit.

I haven’t even felt like blogging on it. I don’t want to feel like I’m complaining when everyone else in the world is going through unique trials too.

The children’s pastor and her assistant as well as our minister of music were all laid off at church due to drastic debt. I cried as I live streamed our prayer gathering and found out their losses and what it meant to our church family as well as their families. I mourned the fact that our WOMEN in leadership were the ones that lost their positions and pay. Two of those ladies are independent with no secondary income or spouses. One was months away from a comfortable retirement. I was close to them and they made church feel safer and more like home. And then our senior pastor chose to take a 50% budget cut and ultimately, fast track stepping down completely as senior pastor and handing the reigns over to our young co-pastor. It’s bittersweet that he is leaving but he is off to do mission work and train up indigenous pastors and I know God is calling him to greater work.

Sweet Sally…She started showing signs of discomfort and I took her to the vet and he totally overlooked any problems and sent me home with some pain medication for what he assumed was lower cerebral inflammation of the spine. She started eating less and looked depressed. I did my best to give her pets and try to inspire her to walk as I know she loved being outside. It finally reached a point where she was refusing most food and looked to be panting. I thought maybe due to her age it was the beginning signs of heart failure. My vet said she needed blood work to continue her pain medication and I somehow felt a second opinion was needed. I called my brother and asked him to go to the vet hospital with me. We figured we’d grab dinner and go to the appointment and wait and then go home with Sally and call it a day. Due to the pandemic and things barely opening up in July, the wait time was 3-4 hours. We were prepared for it to take a while. What we weren’t prepared for was the triage vet tech seeing signs of blood loss through pale gums and taking her back to a waiting room almost immediately. When my girl came back to us, imaging showed she had a tumor that grew so large it raptured her spleen (Hemangiosarcoma is common for senior dogs of her breed) She was in so much distress that they wouldn’t allow us to take her home. Body fluid and bleeding were filling her chest cavity and we had no idea the severity of her problems. We were given two options: a surgery that would remove her spleen and give her up to a year but if it was chemo we’d have to treat the cancer, or we could put her down. Sally was 13, her breed lives up to 15 years, and many people who went through with surgery reported longevity of 6 months, not even a year. I made one of the hardest on the spot decisions I’ve had to make with my brother. We knew given the details the most loving thing we could do was say goodbye that evening. Since my brother and I are different households and we had to be vigilant about infection and covid issues we cried into our masks, refrained from hugging and being too close to each other, and had to be careful about the surfaces we touched. Our vet was comforting and we got the time we needed to say goodbye in a room all to ourselves. I walked in with full confidence Sally was coming home with me and it hurt so bad to be suddenly without her. She was a good girl to the very end. I will never forget her. Somehow knowing I won’t be a dog owner again for the indefinite future made everything harder too. Sally could never be replaced, but there also isn’t room in this time to welcome another dog into the family. I miss the joy and love and loyalty of a canine companion.

My brother and his wife have worked hard to stay afloat after his accident and concussion especially with 2 children and one income. My SIL has worked so hard to make ends meet financially while my brother has taken on more than he can truly bear at childcare, domestic duties, and dealing with pain 24/7 and migraines. The opportunity arose for them to work on a business plan for my SIL and that included renovation of a property for her work. To save money my brother decided to work with the contractor. This turned into my family helping out too, with childcare, up to 10 hours a day because of lack of resources right now. Some weeks my Mom got the kids as early as 8-10am and then I helped out after work and they didn’t go home until after 8pm. Nearly 10-12 hours of childcare including making and feeding meals. My family is exhausted. People joked of netflix time and being bored and being able to work on themselves and here every waking moment was work, childcare, or trying to stay afloat.

My household, like a lot of current households, has people, including myself, who are high risk and might have complications if we got sick with coronavirus so we have been very careful. I also have to be careful for my family since my Dad and Aunt are in their late 70’s. My boyfriend and I keep to meeting in the backyard spaced apart with masks. I’ve met up with a few friends at the park, again, distanced and respectful. It’s hard to see the church and society lash back at doing the right thing. Somehow I’m crazy to adhere to guidelines and care enough about others and myself to do what is right. My parent’s church is literally pressuring them to go back to gathering inside, which is ridiculous. They downplay death rates and overlook infection rates and minimize people who have passed from it to their complications as if they wouldn’t likely be alive today even with complications.

Life is crazy and I have no answers. I can’t lie and say my faith and family make everything better, but they do help. I feel stuck in a rut. But I’ll get through this. We all will.


If there was ever a year to have a vision, it’s this one. It can be hard for me to narrow my focus into a year as my mind tends to think both immediate and longer term but hardly ever interstitial. I think for me, 2020 will be a year where I am ready for big changes. I am freeing myself and working on all aspects of my life to do whatever comes next. Things are lining up to rightly fall into place but without too much concrete idea of what that all entails.

Personal Goals:
Pursue creative passions outside of work
Lose weight for health reasons
Increase activity for health and strength training
Say no to extra commitments
Work on time for myself
Deepen relationships

Financial Goals:
Put more in savings than previous years
Increase retirement planning and funding
Invest in technology that aids in better living/advancement
Spend less on fast fashion and miscellany
Manage weekly and budget monthly to keep on track

Spiritual Goals:
Read the entire Bible this year (focus on daily reading)
Morning devotional (daily)
Get to know more people at church

Family Goals:
Be more gracious to my aging parents
Spend intentional quality time
Quietly improve/organize my parent’s home for them
Help my aunt feel moved in
Spend more time with my brother
Distance myself from getting absorbed into their timelines

I Didn’t Lose my Voice but I Chose to Speak Less in 2019

It’s been quiet on here. Not many updates last year on my blog. For some reason in 2019, I chose to speak less and voice less on the internet. I think I needed some quiet, and I wanted to hear and see but be less heard on trivial things. Not all of it was mindfulness, but I see how that factored into it.

Who hears you when you’re quiet? Who checks on you when you’re putting yourself out there? Who remembers you when step back? How many opinions and quibbles did I benefit from missing because I didn’t put my foot out there?

I think I also didn’t grow much as a person in 2019, if I’m totally honest. I failed my word of the year pretty hard. I got my groove with health and weight loss and lost it again. My world revolved around upcoming big events but none of them were truly mine although I definitely celebrated them happening. My brother and his family welcomed a baby. My cousin got married. My aunt moved in with us. I did not really move any mountains or do anything momentous myself, though. I burned out badly at the end of the year, and failed to be still when I needed to. I let the chaos around me via family life become my chaos, and didn’t know how to separate it.

So now in 2020, I’m slowly untangling again, slowly becoming intentional again, slowly purposing myself in what I set out to do.

I want to be louder again this year, but I want to keep the more intentional aspect of staying silent where needed, when I feel I need peace, or where I don’t feel I need to say my piece.

Shake-ing it Up

I just spent $150 on protein shake powder and I’m just a little bit scared they won’t taste good or work for me. The other 90% of me is pretty excited. This is not me promoting some new fad, I promise. I’m going to explain why shakes seem to be the answer for me personally in this post. I’m not doing Herbalife, Shakeology, or anything MLM. I won’t be selling or making commission off of this. I am also not going to buy supplements or use the detox tea they offer but that goes against my thoughts on weight loss.

If you remember, my word for the year is “Devoted” and to be pretty freaking honest, I’ve done a shitty job living up to that. My schedule is off track. I’m not where I wanted to be halfway through this year. I’ve enjoyed lots of off plan meals, I’ve lost most of my motivation to cook, and I feel overwhelmed and haven’t been faithful to working out.

My home life is changing a bit, and adding another member to the house means less space in general and one more schedule to work around in the kitchen. Somehow in the last 2 years I’ve lost that joy in making food. I think in the back of my mind, cooking 90% of my meals has always been physically taxing. It takes A LOT of time and money and commitment to shop, prep, cook, and consume a special diet.  When I had my own place, I was wasn’t working around other people’s messes and trying to shove all my groceries where they’d fit. I actually had the space and peace and didn’t have the distractions. Now I come home from work and there’s three pans full of food sitting on the stove cooling/needing to be put away, or I forget I have ingredients because it is shoved where I can fit them or someone uses up what I planned to cook with since a lot of the food I buy technically is up for grabs and communal.

I used to be adamant about not using shakes as food but I get it. Our lives are busy and it’s better to fuel up on a shake with nutritious items added then get a refined, greasy, overpriced drive thru meal. I see them in a new light.

I have always used protein shakes as part of my eating plan. The difference is that it was a whey protein isolate and sometimes that gave me migraines or made my tummy hurt. I also didn’t feel like I needed THAT much protein each shake, so I’d never do 2 shakes with the other powders in one day. My Quest protein powder packed a whopping 24g in one serving and I am not an athlete or body builder that needs that much! The THM one had 20g. This new shake has 15g which I think is perfect. I did the math and with the buy 2 get one free deal, each serving of the protein powder is about 1.62. It’ll roughly cost $2-3 with add-ins like almond milk and fruit/oats/etc. It’s got protein and probiotics and is actually plant based, not whey based, so it’s less animal sourced protein and a smaller carbon footprint which I’m excited about. It’s only 90 calories, which means I can pad it with adding fruits and veggies or oats, etc to get it to 300-400. I can still follow Trim Healthy Mama basics with this, it’ll just be way less meal prep. If I throw a 1/2 banana or oats in, I’ll have an E. If I throw MCT oil, berries, avocado, or nuts in there, I’ll have an S.

So here are the pros and cons:

Less decision fatigue
Easier to track macros/calories
Less groceries to store/cook
Takes less space
Eliminates half the time I used to cook/grocery shop
Clean eating and ingredients
THM friendly
Harder to cheat/go overboard
No sugar in protein power
I can customize add ins
Plant based
Less attachment to food
Less costly than a food service
Less costly than eating out

Not as fun as food lol
Still have to add ingredients to shake to get enough calories in
Buying a new flavor for variety is a $68 commitment
Might get tired of “drinking a meal”
Won’t taste as good if just shaking in blender bottle and not blending
If I get lazy and don’t add items to it I’ll have too large of a calorie deficit daily.

I just blocked out my schedule and have it worked out so that most days I use a shake to replace one meal, and 2 days out of the week when I have less control over my meals/are more likely to eat out since they are date nights I’ll have 2 shakes that day to replace 2 meals. I’m hoping that it makes me feel less rushed since it only takes a minute or 2 to throw together and that it works for my crazy life.

My current goals are to finally be faithful to taking vitamins, working on getting my gym schedule back on track, getting into groove of blocking my time daily, and using less mental and physical energy on meal planning. I bought enough protein powder for 3 months, so if I don’t find it working out, I can create a new game plan in September. Wish me luck!

An after Easter Lily

After seeing the big bold resurrection flowers adorn many Easter images and celebrations in late April, I got to meet quite a special Lily on May 2nd. My beautiful niece raced into this world – literally, Mama had a 10-15 minute labor!

Since my SIL is a midwife she didn’t give many details except that baby #2 was expected to arrive some time in May. To our surprise, 2 days into the month I got a call at dinner that asked me to come soon, the baby will probably come tonight. My friend and I rushed to finish dinner and I promptly headed over.

I called and walked into the door and heard…crying. Little sweet shrills of a newborn. That’s when my brother told me the baby was already here. Before the midwife even made it. My SIL settled into the bathtub after her water broke and my brother caught the baby minutes later. Thankfully the midwife was only 10 minutes away and came quickly after that!

Kai was a patient little dude, happily watching an episode of Sesame Street while all the commotion happened around him. My brother told me he really wanted to make a cake for his sister. When I came up to him and said hello he excitedly exclaimed, “Baby come out! Not in Mommy’s tummy!”

We got out all the supplies and found out they were out of eggs. Ha! So we headed to the store and he held out 4 fingers and reminded me we needed “three eggs!” I let him pick out a bouquet for Mommy and we grabbed a carton of eggs. He was singing happy birthday baby as we paced the aisles for supplies and all the way home. He helped stir and crack the eggs in, and when the cake cooled, he proceeded to help frost the cake and eat half the container of frosting. 😉

I can’t remember when I got there, maybe 7:30pm? But the birth photographer and midwife didn’t pack up and leave until around midnight. Because of the precipitous birth they had to give her some coaxing to get her active and thriving but Lily is very healthy and a good eater and sleeper.

Now that she’s nearly 2 months old, she’s beginning to react more to people’s words and facial expressions. Her little smiles are so cute – they start on one end and then slowly widen. She loves to scrunch her lips and furrow her eyebrows. I happen to think she looks a lot like her Momma, and her mom thinks she resembles her grandma.

Kai is both helplessly in love with Lily and jealous of the time she gets with Mommy. We’ve all given him extra love and attention to help him understand he’s still very important to us and we love them both.

When Kai was born, I felt much more prepared and conscious of his arrival and presence. I also spent many weekends over there helping since it was freshly after my brother’s accident. With Lily, the first time I held her it all felt a little alien. That’s not to say I wasn’t excited or think less of her. It just felt less real? I don’t even know how to put that into words. But she is absolutely precious and my brain finally connected that she’s here. Haha. I think when Kai was born we paused the world around us a little bit but when Lily came everything was still whirling around us. I guess that is the plight of a second child. I can’t wait to see the two of them interact more with each other as they grow, but I’m perfectly happy soaking in these baby days again and hoping the time she is little doesn’t speed by.  Auntie life is the best.

Konmari Part Two: My Revised Mission Statement for my Current Living Situation

I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and performed several steps of the festival while I lived in a condo I rented with one other roommate. She graciously gave me free reign with decorating and… I ended up accumulating much more than I needed. I had a gigantic master bedroom with 2 closets to myself, and common area storage for all extras. Now my living space is more compact, with less storage, and sharing a home with many people. I thought it was time to revise my mission statement and restart my festival for my current situation.

My Konmari Mission Statement:

I want to end the cycle of overspending, over-consuming, creating clutter and wasting time tidying the extra, so I can spent my time and emotional resources on more valuable things in life.

It is important for me in this moment in time to not live beyond the space I am given. I trust God to provide for me when I move again with the extra furniture and appliances I may need. I understand that not buying nor storing these items now and saving money now, I can get the item again when it is needed, not wanted, regardless of price or discounts. I seek to not be tethered by what I own to any particular place. I seek to get to the point of surrendering fully even what I prize if God asks it. My horizon is most open with possibilities when material possessions to do not limit my outlook. He has always provided.

I seek to keep a more orderly living situation so that I can freely practice hospitality and open my home to those I love or want to know better without hesitation. I will be gracious with myself to not deny fellowship and friendship if and when my home doesn’t look its best. I desire order also for accessibility of resources: for quick dressing in the morning, art projects, and planning for the future. I hope to lead by example by keeping my portion tidy, so that those who live with me might seek the same.

My current priorities and investments include nurturing my body with healthful food, consistent exercise, good company, and commitments that will produce creative, academic, personal, or spiritual growth.

I see myself unbound from long weekend mornings of cleaning. I see myself ready to move freely, with a culled amount of items to bring with me into a marriage one day if that is in my future. I see myself wholly devoted to what I choose to do, and not weighed down by the trivial. I see myself getting better and longer sleep, having less decision fatigue, and being less frustrated. I see more peace at home with others. I see the freedom to save money for the future and a more honed-in sense of self and needs. I see the ability to give my best yeses, guilt-free noes, and do things passionately. I see a life enriched with gratitude and purpose– achieving more with having less to worry about by only keeping what sparks joy.