People get itchy when the topic of religion is mentioned. Mostly, I think, because, on the "believing" side, we're afraid of being challenged to explain the unexplainable. Over the last year, I've been asked exactly "how" I've managed to make it through the struggles our family has endured - and come through to the other side with so much hope, optimism, and urge to help others.
I'd be remiss if I didn't explain the real reason I'm alive today, only because of the icky feeling of possibly being judged.
As I "put myself out there" people are becoming curious to know more about the way I live my life - one rooted in an unexplained joy and serenity and peace despite the insanity of the world around me.
Well, The Modern Domestic Woman (MDW) is an extension of me, and if you've met me in real life, you know that I don't start any conversation with someone I've just met by bursting out that I love Jesus. I lead with everyday things like hair, decor, food, my kiddos, and the rush of every living day while managing anxiety. I talk about my mission of finding peace and helping other women find their own strength and talents amid the chaos of life.
So too, MDW leads with all the things that make us multi-faceted women of the world:
What gets us through the day: coffee, silly memes, podcasts, books, gardening, knitting, home tending, cooking, meds, Netflix, etc.
What's important to us: our partners, children, pets, parents, friends, house plants, our reputation, our appearance, our health, etc.
What heals us: therapy, self-care, breathing, love, exercise, nature, CBD, yoga, etc.
Yet the element that fills my heart and leads to the peace I've found is rooted in my belief in a higher power.
I'll admit I've been hesitant to talk about religion, for fear of being put in a "crazy, Jesus lady" category with readers.
But I've gone too far in my sharing, where I can't not talk about my personal relationship with the higher power I choose to call Christ. And yes, I will say "higher power" because I'm respectful of the fact that there are people in the world who have different ideas of what a higher power means to them.
And that's okay.
All I need to do is be the shining light that my higher power (Jesus) has asked me to be in this world. Not by bashing Bibles over people's heads and wearing a sparkly cross around my neck (although I do have a really cute one!) - it's by loving people the only way I know how.
Creating MDW was Spirit-led, which sounds absolutely crazy. God put on my heart years ago to create an honest space for women who needed help in any capacity, no matter what their background, economic status, or struggle. To share my own crazy and let women know they're not alone.
So many people are asking how I've discovered this amazing peace that I need to tell them how it happened. That, while broken in a season of back to back to back to back insanity, the idea of discovering a higher power that could take the pressure off me having to make decisions and trying to figure out the unfigure-outable, was a welcome thought.
That an all-powerful being cared for me - no matter what.
No matter what I did and how I screwed up.
No matter what other people did to me or how others made me feel, in my heart would linger a soft whisper of love telling me that everything would be okay - and that I'm not alone.
This may sound like crazy talk - and it IS! In all reality, the idea of an all-powerful magical being that created the world and sent a spirit to fill a human body to love others, perform unexplainable miracles, and then willingly be crucified - is insane.
And don't even get me started on the whole "rising from the dead and ascending into heaven" bit! It's SCREWY!
But I believe it.
Why? Because I need a guide to help me through this life and my own intuition is not cutting it. And this being - God/Jesus/Holy Spirit - whatever I want to call this higher power, lives in my soul and is the only reason I'm living and smiling.
If you want to learn more about what I believe, I talk about my approach to Christianity below. This opinion will ruffle feathers in my own community, I know that, and I'm comfortable stirring people up.
But let me say this: all Jesus asked me to do was go out and be a shining light of LOVE.
And I'm loving by providing women with a message of hope and practical resources.
Now, if someone asks me the hows and whys of the way I am, I will be honest and share how I kickstart my own version of exploring a relationship with a higher power.
And that's where my influence as a Christian woman ends - full stop. To be a light and tell my tale and invite people to learn more and then that's it. I don't need to have an opinion about where or how she/he should move forward or force my beliefs on her/him. My religion is not a behavioral modification program, as Christine Caine would say, it's an intimate living connection.
My religion is a personal relationship with Jesus.
Here's what I believe:
1. God is a tri-part being like I am a multifaceted being. I'm a mother and a wife and a daughter and sister and an aunt and a friend and woman and a writer and a gardener. So why can't God be a father, son, and a spirit?
I also firmly believe God is genderless. He's a father and a mother. God encompasses every minute detail of every human being on this earth, so while we have labeled this entity as He - while I use the pronouns He/Him, I believe God identifies with us ALL.
2. Jesus wasn't poor. You mean to tell me that this baby was given gifts by kings around the world and His family turned out to be poor? Come on now. My take? Because Jesus hung around the poor, mistreated, exploited, and social outcasts - HE was seen as poor because of the company He kept.
3. God loves everybody. EV 👏 RY 👏 BO 👏 DY👏
4. God's not mad at you.
5. God loves everyone. EV 👏 RY 👏 ONE👏
6. The dinosaurs and evolution and the creation story of the earth could have happened in harmony with each other. If we step back and think of God as the ultimate creative being of the entire universe, every creative has a process. You start with an idea and explore all the interesting ways to execute that intent.
So, God's up there in the big unknown and starts to create. Like a sculptor, molding and creating and scrapping ideas that aren't his desired vision, what we define as evolution happens. God sits back, let's the things He's planted in this giant garden start to grow and flourish or wither and disappear. He then ponders the results. He knows He's on the right track, but this concept could be better.
So more playing ensues - the dinosaurs arrive. Like an artist challenging all the boundaries, God kicks around the idea of these sometimes tiny and often massive beasts. He's on to something - but like any being devising a dream - it's not there yet. So God scraps the dinosaurs and starts to fine-tune this work. He starts to edit. God looks at all the organisms and creatures and bugs and beasts and species and plants - He looks at the garden of life and weeds a little.
Pouring extra nourishment here and there, God streamlines the vision and decides He needs one extra special being to not only take care of His garden but a being that He(God) could love and talk to and foster and hold in His heart.
We are all multi-faceted beings.
I am a daughter and a sister. A friend and a wife. I’m an aunt and a mother, and finally, a writer. In tending to my spiritual home, I often feel a pang of anxiety as those roles overlap. The ebb and flow of the highs and lows of these facets of me bring about joy, however, more times than not, I have been riddled with anxiety over them.
I need to believe there is a higher power to help me through those really intense times when it’s just me and my constantly running mind. Our world is a very interesting place as now we can chat easily with people all over the world. Years have been spent reflecting on fine-tuning the person I “should” be, and the more I drifted away from believing in a being that could act as my guide, the darker the days seemed to be.
Just as I have found a niche for my exercise regime, I've taken the time to explore what my ideal divine being would need to possess:
The first component would have to be LOVE — the kind of love that is all-encompassing and I can feel deep in my heart.
The second is COMPASSION. All of the bad decisions in my life warrant an entity that, without fail no matter how many times I fail, would show tenderness even in my darkest days.
The last feature is a SENSE OF HUMOR. A long-time coping mechanism, I decided that if I were to select a higher power, he/she would need to have a creative and almost lighthearted way of weathering the storm of life with me.
Since this mysterious being resided only in my heart, I reasoned I had to look for examples of my ideal higher power. So I went into the world, a.k.a. the Internet, to find a light that resonated with my idea. I have many friends and acquaintances that I love to listen to and learn from, whether their opinion meshes with my own or not, and each has a higher power to speak of.
I ended up finding a perfect fit for my criteria of love, compassion, and sense of humor in Jesus, the main figure of the Christian religion. I simply like his style. I love that he hung out with people who were difficult and rough and, according to society, not always desirable. That was me through and through and I needed to have this guide to be a calm light in the whirlwind of life clobbering me on the head.
Just as I surround myself with wise women who have a knack for home-keeping, I realized I needed to be on the search for people in my day to day that could help me with my “heart-keeping." But I needed honesty, not bible banging pressure. I needed a straightforwardness coated in gentle nudge that came from a place of love to be at the forefront of these spiritual teachers.
Natalie A. Brown
Author of 52 Cups of Coffee, Natalie A. Brown is a beautiful storyteller that connects to women with everyday stories. I was fortunate to actual coffee with Natalie recently and was so impressed with her eloquence and quest to quiet the noise of the world today with contemplative reflection. Only 20 pages into 52 Cups and my heart already was struck with much reflection, head nodding, and multiple ah-ha moments.
I always know when I’ve enjoyed talking with someone because I have absolutely no pictures from our time together. The conversation with Natalie was so engaging that screens and cameras didn’t matter-only the company did. This chronicle of weekly reflections for the contemplative soul is so spot-on for women today.
One of the first teachers I found was Joyce Meyer. Her personal testimony is POWERFUL, to say the least, full of abuse that started when she was a little girl. Her frankness and humor are what brings me back, always rooted in the message of Jesus’ love and compassion that I long for.
Christine Caine is another evangelist, a wonderfully boisterous Australian woman who has a knack for charging into hell on earth situations to rescue the forgotten. Her anti-trafficking campaign, A21 is all about abolishing slavery everywhere through awareness, intervention, and aftercare.
Pastor of Geneva Lutheran Church, Trudy Stoffel celebrates God in her community with a "come as you are, wherever you are in your spiritual walk" mentality, inviting all to live a generous life in Christ. The congregation literally steps into God’s Word, "surrounded by stained glass windows that tell the stories of God’s generosity; in worship, sacraments, fellowship, learning, and serving we encounter Christ who comforts us when we are hurting, challenges us when we are not, and inspires us to serve Christ in the heart (and hearts) of our community."
Pastor Trudy's presentation of the Word of God is how I would envision the disciples sitting around and telling stories about their time with Jesus. Worship at Geneva Lutheran is inviting, thought-provoking, and above all - scriptural - in a practical way that nurtures and equips you to take on the world with a pure heart and a big-hearted soul.
I encourage you to give time to your own heart-keeping in order to discover peace. These women have been guides to help connect me to God, and maybe they will resonate with your heart too. But let me be honest, this is a process. Your spirit is with you 24/7, and there is no need for this inner being to wander restless.
Everyone’s spiritual adventure is different - and that’s okay.
To each her own - and this is mine.
About the author: Elizabeth Rago is a mama, wife, and the creator of The Modern Domestic Woman (MDW). Starting with silly beginnings writing about home decor and DIY projects, Elizabeth found MDW to be a happy distraction from her stressful life.
After a series of unfortunate events including job loss, a car accident, bankruptcy, and a physical and emotional breakdown, Elizabeth felt compelled to shift the primary focus of MDW from pretty pictures and goofy memes to a space of honest support for the modern woman. Learn more about Elizabeth at MDWcares.com
An excerpt of this article appeared in the Kane County Chronicle on January 18, 2017.