Lately, Eddie and I have been growing a lot in our faith, which is a great thing. However, I’ve been really struggling with the issue of choosing a denomination. Our recent growth has also caused some of our friends who have known us for quite some time to question what is going on. This is our story:
You see, when we were teenagers we were VERY involved with the Catholic church. We both came from Catholic families and we went to a Catholic school, we were peer ministers, we went to local and national Catholic youth conventions, we did volunteer work, etc. I also attended a Catholic leadership institute summer program and completed a special college level theology class at St. Mary’s Seminary. It was a big part of our identity.
From there, although we were still dating, Eddie went to the University of Maryland while I obtained my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, which is a very small Catholic women’s college founded by a group of nuns known as the School Sisters of Notre Dame. That meant I was in Catholic schools from elementary through graduate school. I hate to use the word indoctrinated, so let’s just say that I had and still have a very strong understanding of the teachings of this church.
That’s not to say we always followed those teachings. We both made some decisions during our teenage years regarding alcohol, sexuality, and the situations in which we allowed ourselves to be involved that were definitely not in line with any religious teachings, Catholic or otherwise.
We didn’t talk much about our personal relationships with God, but I saw Eddie’s fading fast when he went to college. I thought mine was still fairly strong, but it faded over time as well and our relationship with each other suffered at the same time. We didn’t go to church any more. This was around the same time that the scandals involving priests and sexual abuse were all over the news. Eddie decided he just could not be part of a church that didn’t punish that kind of behavior. In our own relationship there were “breaks” and fights and tears and another guy, but we loved each other deeply and I had a fierce and stubborn determination that we were going to get married and have children. I always get my way.
2006 was a ridiculously stressful time.
In May Eddie got his bachelor’s degree, I got my master’s degree, he tore his ACL and had surgery, and we settled on our first house, which was 1,000 miles away from home because we had decided to move to Florida on a whim.
In June he moved to Florida and started his job, I finished my first year of teaching in Maryland and moved to the new house in Florida a few weeks after he did.
In July & August I found a part-time job at a gym because I was struggling to find a teaching job in a new state where I didn’t have my certification. The owners were downright nasty people. I struggled dealing with their lying, harassment, and general cattiness while Eddie had no trouble making new friends and leaving me alone more often than I cared for while he joined new sports teams, frequented bars, and worked tons of over-time. I was busy filing complaints with the police and planning our wedding.
In September we went back to Baltimore, got married, and went on a fabulous trip to the Sandals resort in the Bahamas. Things started to look up. Our relationship was getting stronger because we had to lean on each other for support since we were so far from home. I found a teaching job, I was going to teach gifted students math and science. I’d be at one school in the morning and another in the afternoon.
In October I started my new job. The parents hated me with a passion. There had just been boundary changes in the county and they were not happy that their children had been sent to different schools. The gifted teacher that had been at the school had retired when she learned her position would be split between two schools, so they lost a teacher with 30 years of experience and got me, not certified by Florida, no training in gifted education, with only one year of experience, coming in after the first quarter was just about over. Parents who didn’t even know me jumped on the band wagon. There was a three page article in a local magazine attacking me and the other gifted teacher at my afternoon school. The family who was interviewed had their picture taken and were quoted several times complaining about the gifted program and its new teacher (me). Their child wasn’t even in the gifted program! I never taught her!
In the midst of all of this I got a calling from God. I felt a strange ache in my heart and I knew I had been called to adopt a child. Do you know when you are hungry? You instinctively know that the ache in your stomach means you need to eat. It was the same thing. There was a very sudden and very strong ache in my heart and I knew exactly what it meant.
Eddie thought I was going insane. Literally. He thought the stress of everything had gotten to me and he told me to see a psychiatrist. He said that the only reason I was saying that I was being called by God was because he had no argument for that. We hadn’t been to church in years. It made no sense at all.
I was not insane, but I was obsessed. Suddenly I spent every free moment of my time researching adoption, emailing him articles and pictures of children from the Heart Gallery, and re-reading A Child Called It, the book that had originally put the adoption idea in my head years before. At first Eddie was not on board. At all. Can you blame him? He was 21 and had only been married for 6 weeks.
It took me 6 months to convince him to go to an orientation meeting with Camelot, the foster care and adoption agency we chose. I had to drag him by the teeth and I’m pretty sure he only agreed to go so that I would shut up. Six months of nagging is a long time. We went to the orientation in April of 2007. We didn’t know it yet, but our 4-week-old son was living in the Salvation Army homeless shelter at the time. I can’t even look at that sentence without crying.
The entire process took a year and a half from the time of that meeting until we stood in the court room and the judge pronounced us Nicholas’ adoptive parents. During that time Eddie’s heart changed. The more stories he heard, the more children he met, the more he understood why we needed to do this. It was hard for him to make the decision to leave his youth behind him and make the transition from frat boy to being somebody’s dad. Really hard. But he did it with strength and grace that he didn’t know he had and I think he started to realize where that strength and grace was coming from.
During that year we were preparing for our adopted child everything started falling into place. I got a more stable teaching position, being able to stay at one school all day. I started to make friends. I got my certifications for the state of Florida and gifted education. I became our school’s science contact (basically the department chair) and a county teacher trainer. My principal even nominated me for an award! Eddie got raise after raise and high praise at work too. Our relationship got much stronger.
In May of 2008 Nicholas moved in with us. His foster mom, Debbie, had taken care of him since he was 2 months old. We will be forever grateful to Debbie. She is an angel on earth and we’re lucky to still be able to keep in touch with her.
In July we decided to move to Pennsylvania where we could be close to family, but Eddie could continue his career in a different office but for the same company. We found a house and made an offer. They agreed not to settle until September.
In August of 2008 we discovered that I was pregnant.
In September we put our Florida house on the market and settled on the one in Pennsylvania. We had two mortgages until we could sell our Florida house.
In October we went to court and officially became Nicholas’ parents.
In November we sold the house. It was the peak of the housing crisis and Florida was the worst state hit. We lost close to $60,000. It was worth it.
In December family flew down to Florida and helped us make the 23 hour trip with our moving van. I was 5 months pregnant and Nicholas was 1 and a half. We got a flat tire at 1:00 in the morning. It was an adventure.
In January of 2009 I got a post card advertising a mom-n-me program at a local church. I was 6 months pregnant and going stir crazy in the Pennsylvania house with a toddler who had never known a cold day in his life, trying to adjust to my new role as a stay-at-home mom. That was our first introduction to the Church of the Open Door.
Nicholas and I continued going to mom-n-me, but it wasn’t until May of 2009 that we actually attended a service. I convinced Eddie to go mostly because they offered free child care. Abby was 5 weeks old and we were exhausted. Before the service they advertised that they were having men’s volleyball that night. Eddie is an avid competitive volleyball player. He went that night, met a great friend in Josh, and was hooked.
I was not so hooked. This was a very strange roll reversal. I loved the idea of bringing my children up in the church. I loved that Eddie was willing to go. I loved that we made such great friends so quickly. I did not like the idea that this was a Protestant church. COD has no denomination, but it is most definitely Protestant. (Protestant meaning not Orthodox and not Catholic)
Where were my traditions? What do you mean you don’t Baptize children? What do you mean there’s no ceremony for their First Communion? Wait a minute, Communion is symbolic and you take the Bible literally? That last one is the complete opposite of every thing I ever heard in any graduate-level theology course I was ever taught by nuns who had dedicated their entire lives to educating people about God. The Catholic church believes that during Communion God performs a miracle and literally takes the bread and wine and turns it into the body and blood of Jesus. They also believe that many of the stories in the Bible, such as the Creation story, are not meant to be taken literally.
Eddie was thrilled to find a church where he fit. His faith blossomed exponentially. He has always been a good, loyal husband and father, but now he is nothing short of amazing. I love COD too. I love its people, its way of reaching out to the community, its programs, the way the Bible is used with active participation throughout the ceremony, and most especially for the man I now have for a husband. But I’m still not sure I fit.
I’m trying. We took the Welcome class where Pastor Bob explained the belief system. We’re taking the parenting class. I still go to Mom N Me and last year I served on the steering committee. But I’m really struggling with this whole Protestant thing. With calling people “saved” or “not saved.” With the fact that if we become members I will not get to see my little girl walk to the alter in her white dress to take her First Communion. With the fact that my children will have different traditions than I did. And most especially with taking the Bible literally. I know that God doesn’t care what traditions we use or whether Abby wears a white dress or a pair of jeans the first time she takes Communion, but I’m pretty sure He does care about what we believe about Him.
So I tried it. I honestly did. I picked up the Bible and I started reading with the mindset that everything I was reading was exactly what happened. I got to Genesis 1. (That’s not very far.) In Genesis 1 God created the world in 6 days. In our Welcome class Pastor Bob said that COD takes this literally. My question is this: How is it even possible to take this to mean that this was done in 6 24 hour days? The definition we’re basing our time frame on is the time it takes the earth to rotate on its axis. For the first two days all that existed were light and sky. How are you going to measure this in Earth days before the earth existed? Not to mention that God made all of the other planets too. What if He wants us to measure in Jupiter days?
Then I got to Genesis 4. This is where Cain kills Abel. If the Bible is to be taken literally then Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel are the only people on Earth. After Cain kills his brother he and his wife (Where did he get a wife? Did he marry his sister? When did he get a sister?) have a son. Then they build a city (Why are they building a city? The only people on the planet are Adam, Eve, Cain, his wife who came out of nowhere, and their baby, Enoch. Cain doesn’t live near Adam and Eve any more. Why does his tiny little family need an entire city? Did she help build it? How do two people build a city by themselves and take care of an infant? Do they mean they built the city by populating it with people or by actually building the structures? –If the Bible were a movie this is where Eddie would hiss at me, “Would you stop asking questions and just watch?!”) Then Enoch has an entire line of descendants. I am too confused to keep reading this way. Obviously these men did not spawn themselves and yet the only woman mentioned is Eve. She didn’t have her son’s baby because he had been sent away for killing his brother, yet it says he has a wife, as do all of his descendants from there on out. To me that means that the only logical conclusion is that there were other people on Earth. I can’t take the entire Bible literally. I believe its message with my entire heart, but I am really struggling to take it literally.
But at the same time I love COD for the way has it transformed our family dynamic. It was there, sitting in a service on Sunday morning, that a sudden realization washed over me. I wasn’t listening to Pastor Bob at all. Tears started running down my face and Eddie mouthed, “Are you ok?” I just nodded. At the time we were really struggling. Nicholas had been diagnosed with a very challenging behavior disorder, I was trying to sell the toy library I had just founded so I could deal with him. None of my education or experience had prepared me to raise this child with special needs. I felt like a total failure, but suddenly I just knew.
I knew I had been chosen for this task and Nicholas was my purpose in life. I had just realized, while zoning out during the sermon, that I moved to Florida on June 19, 2006. Nicholas was born in Tampa on March 16, 2007. That is almost 9 months to the day. (Eddie had moved in 2 weeks before I did.) I understood why I had faced so many challenges in Florida; it was all in preparation for this much more important task. God wouldn’t bring him into the world until I was where I needed to be, both mentally and geographically.
So that’s where I am.
Several of the great leaders in the Bible were taken in and raised by people who were not their biological parents. Moses was taken in by the Pharaoh’s daughter, Queen Esther was adopted by Mordecai, and Jesus was raised by Joseph. Adoption is an important calling. My son will go on to do great things.