What the Holy Ghost Knows About Uncle Pete’s Cats

My Uncle, let’s call him Pete, once said to my mom, “The Holy Ghost told me Julie was the one dropping off those stray cats at my house.” His bushy eyebrow raised as he waited for her to confess the truth.

He lives on 20 acres in a rural area off a dead end road by the river. Surprisingly, there have always been a lot of strays wondering up to his property. But Uncle Pete feeds any animal who shows up. Dogs, cats, racoons, and possums. This irritates Dad because his garden is right next door. He prefers that wildlife not be lured in with table scraps and cat food. But perhaps Uncle Pete is helping by filling up their bellies before they ever make it over to Dad’s produce. Once, a possum got into Uncle Pete’s garage and ate so¬† much cat food it couldn’t get out.

When Mom told me what Uncle Pete said about the Holy Ghost, I was kind of hurt. What would make the Holy Ghost lie about me like that? But that was said years ago and I have mostly let go of my bitterness. For all I know, the Holy Ghost was giving me credit for something that gave Uncle Pete secret pleasure. Caring for animals is something he has always done with his whole heart.

This past week, a stray kitten showed up to my brother’s porch. He lives in a small house with an even smaller yard which sits on a corner lot by a busy street. Inside that house there are already four very rotund cats: Lefty, Poncho, Melvis, and Harry. My brother was not about to take in another cat, no matter how cute it was.

Mom, being the problem solver she is, called Uncle Pete to ask him is he’d take the kitten. As she said, “He’s down to just one cat except for Blue and that yella cat that comes around sometimes.” (Blue is also a stray which never gets close enough to be considered a pet.)

Uncle Pete hesitantly said he’d take the kitten. But Mom says he also sounded excited.

She told me on Thursday, “I’m going to stop by your brother’s house and pick up the little thing tomorrow. Your brother has put food out on the porch so it will stay. He has even been out there holding it and petting it this afternoon.”

Well, evidently the kitten didn’t stay. Mom went to get it Friday and it was gone. My brother’s neighbors said it had been to their house the night before. Mom had to call Uncle Pete and tell him he would not be getting a new kitten.

Uncle Pete said, “You know, God probably had a plan.”

Perhaps that’s how Uncle Pete should have thought about the strays years ago. But, is it really his fault? He was just listening to what the Holy Ghost was telling him.

I’m just going to speculate that this is who really brought the cats to Uncle Pete:

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Winter Seedlings Book Series

The final novel in the Winter Seedlings book series has been released. Winter Suns debuted as #60 on Amazon in the category of Women’s Fiction: Christian. It is not a Christian book, but has a lot of Christian keywords in the text and description because the Main Character was abused by a man who used the Bible to justify his actions. His beliefs would have placed him in a Christian cult more than anything similar to how Christianity is normally practiced. But thanks to Amazon, and those who purchased the book on pre-order, I am technically a bestseller. I do not, however, feel accomplished. That will not happen until I start to get some feedback and hear what people think of it.

Winter Suns is a story of the next generation after Winter Seedlings, with the common theme of childhood sexual abuse. There are certainly many characters dealing with it in many different ways. Book one ends on a sort of bittersweet note. So, I wanted to make sure Winter Suns came through with a little more hope at the end. I think if it’s ever made into a movie, The Beatle’s “Here Comes the Sun” should play as the credits roll.

Through God and Out the Other Side

A personal journey:

I stopped believing in the Christian God, officially, when I was 27. I still believed in something, an unexplained connection between people and matter of all forms. At the time I stopped believing in God, I still believed in mystery and possibility.

I would likely have had no opinion about God whatsoever if I hadn’t been brought up in a church, a Christian Church. I believed everything I was ever told about God. That was the church’s fatal mistake, they convinced me every word of the Bible was true, ALL of it. Because I cared about pleasing God and being a good Christian, I paid attention in Sunday School. I observed Christians. I analyzed the meaning of text for better understanding. And eventually I was tangled up in contradictions.

I first began to question the validity of Christianity when I was ten. But my skepticism was cut off at the pass when a prayer I prayed nightly was answered. I grew up on a long driveway off a dead end road by a river. Most of my neighbors were relatives, great-aunts and great-uncles with gray hair and raspy voices. When I started Kindergarten I learned what friends were, I wanted some of those. I prayed for kids my age to live near me. I wanted it so badly.

After five years of praying that same prayer, during a single summer, my two best friends from elementary school moved onto my dead end road. Both lived within walking distance. One of them was so close that I could hear her new dad screaming at her inside her house while I stood in my front yard. Sometimes I could even hear the smashing of furniture and small appliances as they were flung out the open door in rage. It was a prayer answered… for me. How could I doubt the existence of God when my prayer had been answered more spectacularly than I could have ever imagined?

Except it wasn’t an answered prayer for my friend’s family. It was a descent into Hell. If I was going to credit God for moving my friend nearby, I would also have to blame God for moving her in with a monster. I couldn’t mentally reconcile this conflict.

It wasn’t the last conflict I would have. There was a time when I was in a mess of trouble. It was the kind of trouble that generally stays hidden from view. I was too young to know what to do about it. My friend (different friend) decide that to help out, she would reveal my problems to the youth group at church on a night when I was absent. They prayed for me to change my ways and then they never quite looked at me the same again. God didn’t send a miracle to end my trouble and no one in the church took the time to actually, physically, help me. They prayed and washed their hands of my sins… well, not really. No one can forget a good sin story, true or false.

By the time I met my husband, I was as close to being Atheist as one could get without being one. I was still uncomfortable declaring with certainty that there was no God. It felt wrong, and sad, and it made me feel so alone. I still believed in something greater than myself, even if I didn’t know what that thing was. I knew it wasn’t the Christian God. But, there were other religions that better described what I felt about this greater-than-myself being.

The metaphor became my religion. In every object, there was a face of God. In the multiple faces of God, there was I, and you, and the Universe. I felt alive with this belief that all things existed within God and that God was within all things, metaphorically.

The thing I appreciated most about my husband (then boyfriend) was his love for the Goddess, the metaphor for Earth, the mother, giver of life, and feminine power. He loved to research ancient religions, and he had his favorite Gods and Goddesses. But I loved most that he acknowledged the feminine spirit.

We decided to get married. Simultaneously and independently of each other, we discovered we wanted to have a handfasting ceremony. It was a “me, too” moment when I suggested the ritual. We narrowed our search for a Wiccan Priestess with a broad range of experience with diverse rituals. She asked to meet with us before deciding if she would perform our custom ceremony. My husband-to-be answered most of her questions because he was more familiar with different practices. But I remember the Priestess asking me specifically, “Why do you want this kind of ritual?”

My answer to her was that I wanted a ritual that meant something. If we didn’t have a ritual at all, if we just went to the courthouse and signed a document, it wouldn’t feel real. But, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to a Christian church. I remember telling her that, for me, Christianity was too male-centered. I wanted a balance of energies, feminine and masculine. I remember feeling validated that she nodded eagerly with understanding. In order for it to have meaning for me, it had to be balanced and equal, which isn’t just what I wanted in a ceremony, it was what I wanted in a marriage.

We invited family to our handfasting, which took place on Halloween night, in the woods, under a waxing moon. I gave little thought to my guests’ religious points of view. I naively believed that they would see the beauty in our ceremony and would know it was good. Because it was good. The night of the ceremony, no one spoke an objection. But even now, fourteen years later, there are people who will call up my mother and tell her they still pray for me because of my wedding. They say the word “wedding” as if their mouths are full of poison. The night of the ritual, it was beautiful to them. But once removed from the romance, they convinced themselves it was evil.

I have no patience for it. However, I do wish they would leave Mom alone about it. She raised us to be Christians and she does her best to be like Christ. But she has never given us a mandate on our beliefs whether religious or otherwise. She loves her children, unconditionally, eternally. To quote her, “Well, it’s whatever you want to do, Little Girl.”

They upset her, though. She isn’t upset with me. She is upset because she assumes people are talking about me behind my back, forming opinions about my salvation, and judging her negatively as a mother. She holds me close, knows my thoughts and dreams, discusses my motivations, understands my heart. She never questions my goodness and doesn’t like others to question it, either.

In the fourteen years since the handfasting, I have never stopped assessing my beliefs. I have very few beliefs left. Over time, they get whittled away by contradictions. But I still believe that ritual can, but not always does, have power over the human minds involved. This is true not because of supernatural beings or mystical powers, but because of the power belief holds over the believer.

More than anything, I believe in love, the love a person can become through the act of loving others. When I say I am blessed, it is love that blesses me. That is my religion.

When Evangelists come to my door, we find a common ground, that God is Love. I remind them that if God is Love then Love is God. Wherever there is Love, by their own definition, there must also be God. Love cannot be wrong.

I can now say, unflinchingly, that I am an Atheist. But I can still appreciate the power of belief and ritual to promote positive change. I can still discuss others’ gods and goddesses with personal experience and understanding. I can still appreciate the mysteries. I can still assume that by loving others, love multiplies, and the world slowly changes for the better. So mote it be.

Words for Nothing

Mondays are the start of my weekend. Everyone is gone. There is nothing on Hulu to distract me until New Girl on Wednesdays. I am alone and I can type out all those plot twists I dreamed up over the weekend. So, I have no excuse for not pounding out a couple thousand words or more.

Except, today I had an appointment to take my son for an OT evaluation. It was early, so I had hoped to come home and have a few hours to write before school ended. As it happened, I was home by noon and excited to snuggle up with my laptop and edit my story.

But first I had to email my son’s teacher, which ended up being four long paragraphs about what I learned today from the therapist. He doesn’t need medication. He has legitimate sensory processing disorders. He isn’t making a choice to misbehave. He is making a choice to participate, and what that looks like for him is not what it looks like for most kids. Could she please watch the attached video explaining what it is like for kids with proprioceptive disorders? Maybe we should consider moving up his IEP meeting until the OT report comes back so the school can look at it….

That took a while, eating away at my Scrivener time. But, it was important that I get the words just right to make her understand.

She replied to me with two sentences. One was to say we would discuss these matters at our meeting in two days. The second was to inquire if I had my son’s folder.

Yes. I have his folder, the one she puts his frowny faces in when he has misbehaved. He has lots of frowny faces for falling out of his chair or jumping or making “other kids complain”, the kind of misbehaving I had just emailed her about.

I had forty five minutes left before I had to walk over and get him from school. I had forty five minutes to spend writing. I used it to write a tirade on Facebook about just how upset I was by the two sentence response from the teacher. I used it to post tidbits of it to Twitter. I used it all up being publicly anxious and frazzled and scorned because that’s what happens to parents around IEP time.

But at least I was writing. I was writing something.

I thought maybe I could work on my social media endeavors while the kids watched Dr. Who. I could fit in a blog entry if I could get my mind cleared.

Except that my friend sent an email stating, in part, that I was doing an “injustice” to my children by not regularly taking them to church. My response was thoughtful, but passionate, and respectful of her beliefs. I thought about every word I wrote to her so that I could explain why she can not say things like that without consequences. I wanted her to understand that it hurts and she shouldn’t do it, not even for God.

After her response came back insinuating I was only upset because she was a Christian talking about God, I realized that my time and effort had once again gone to waste. She did not see that she had insulted me. She only saw that I had taken insult with her religion.

Did that stop me from responding again and potentially wasting more time? No. I bit the hook and spent the next thirty minutes writing something more clear and easily understood. It was important to me that she understand my point of view, maybe too important. The jury is still out on whether or not it was time well spent.

Mondays are great days for writing. I certainly did my share of it today. I just wish it had touched the hearts I had intended. I wish it didn’t feel so in vain.