So, this post could potentially stir up trouble. But that is not my intention, so please only read on with an open mind. 🙂
I don’t consider myself to be a “religious” person. I haven’t been to church in a few years, not even for Christmas or Easter. I am according to many modern churches a “statistic” one of the many kids/teens raised in church who leave once they reach adulthood. I don’t talk about my beliefs often. But as with anyone they are an important part of me and I’d like to take a moment to discuss this.
So lets start at the beginning…
I grew up in a non-denominational church (which I guess leaned towards evangelical?) Church was at like 10-11am, we had modern music (drum sets, guitars etc) for worship. There was Sunday school, youth group and so-on. I was also home-schooled through the years I went to this church so the majority of my friends were from church. I really enjoyed church, it was fun. People raised their hands and waved banners during worship, people spoke in tongues, had prophetic words and sometimes danced during the services, there were even puppet shows for a while. This was all really great when I was young, I learned that Jesus loves us, that we should be kind to one another etc etc etc.
But as I got older and more aware of what was going on around me, I began to realize that church wasn’t everything it seemed to be. My dad was one of the elders so we were always very involved at church, going early to make the coffee, my parents led home groups (a mid-week small meetings) Things at church started getting shaky, there were parts of the congregation that weren’t happy about the way things were being run. (I have no idea what the details of it were) The pastor was tired and burnt out. There was vast amounts of judging each other going on among the adults. The church did not last, it dissolved a few years later. Which sort of began my spiritual journey outside the walls of a “church”
Now I was taught to read the Bible, that the Bible is our instructions for how to live our lives. In the Matthew Chapter 22, Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God and then to Love one another. That is what everything is founded upon. Love. Not just a froofy lovey dovey love, a solid meaningful, sometimes difficult, real Love.
I have yet to walk through the doors of any church and witness the congregation as a whole embody this. Sure the church’s may mean well, you may feel good after the service on Sundays, the pastor might give a good sermon, or maybe the worship was especially “Spirit-filled” that day. There might even be outreach programs where you try to reach out to the community and talk at them about how much God loves them, give them pamphlets and cleverly designed brochures, preaching the Good Word. There will be weekend retreats where you can go and get an extra dose of the Holy Spirit and pray for hours on end and you know, really “connect with God.”
Now, I’m not saying that any of these things in and of themselves are wrong, or insincere. But all my life I have been to these things I have experienced the hype of a weekend retreat, the warm feeling you get handing someone a bag of cookies with a “Jesus Loves You” card stapled to it. But the reason why you do it matters. None of that stuff matters if you don’t Love.
I left the church, because all I saw was a place people went to make themselves feel better. I left because nobody really seemed interested in doing the things that mattered. Because so many of those people don’t know to Love, the hard way.
I do my best to Love the people in my life. To listen to them, to give them a hand when they need it, to give to them whatever I can when their need is greater than mine. (and their need is almost always greater.) To Love without expecting anything in return, not even a warm fuzzy feeling. Sometimes Loving people sucks. But God does it, and we certainly don’t deserve it. and God told me (us) that that is what’s important is to Love people. I refuse to judge or look down on someone because the swear, or drink or gamble, or because their gay or want to have an abortion. God did not tell us to judge these people, He told us to Love them. There are so many “Christians” out there who do not understand this.
It makes me sad.
In the summer time for about 15 weeks I step back in time to the 1820’s-30’s. I talk about and imitate an average family of that time. The Biddles. Every morning before work I get changed into my “uniform;” pantalettes, petticoats, knee high stockings, chemises, sometimes corsets. An 1830’s day dress, black boring “historic” shoes. I put my hair in a bun and place a daycap on my head. I try to remove all signs of the 21st century from my person, no makeup, no modern jewelry, etc. Then I spend my days cooking over an open-hearth, or quilting, making soap, sewing, knitting, gardening. When visitors come in, I tell them how Edward and Agatha Biddle lived their day-to-day lives, I show them the way we think Agatha did things, we tell them about the good/bad things they did. The children they raised and buried, the challenges they may have faced, the wealth they might have enjoyed. All in about 3-5 minutes. I’ve done this for five summers now. All the girls who work at the Biddle house feel in some sense like we know the Biddles, that Agatha is a friend of ours. And yet, we still know so little about them, we have no diaries, no household records really, not much in the way of personal affects. We have a few letters from a relative (niece/cousin) in Detroit, some public legal records. Affidavits that may or may not be a little exaggerated. We have some records of things they bought at the local store. We have little bits and pieces of the whole picture of the lives of this couple and their children. All of us talk about the family a little differently all of us look at their lives through the lens of our own lives and experiences.
I can’t help but wonder, are we even close to giving an accurate picture of this family? I would love to go back and have a cup of tea with Agatha Biddle, to find out what it was truly like to live her life. What was her relationship with Edward like? The children? What’s her favorite color? What were her hopes and dreams? Her favorite food? I suppose I won’t find out until I’m dead, if at all.
Questions like these have always bothered me. I grew up going to Historical sites. That’s what we did on family vacations. We talked to countless (non)costumed re-enactors and interpreters. Walked through hundreds of old buildings and empty spaces where buildings used to be. All these sites tried to give us an idea of “ye-olden days;” of important events that happened there, of important people that lived/worked/played there. Colonial Williamsburg was always a treat as they have essentially brought to life the old town, there are many first-person interpreters there who talk as characters from that time period. I loved them. At all the places we went, I cared not about the important people and events of the sites, I cared about how they lived. Where they slept, how they cooked their food, where they cooked, where they ate, where they played, the things they had to do to run the house. Things that most people don’t really think twice about. I ADORE it, and in turn I think quite regularly about the way 21st century people live and how in 100-200+ years those people will look back at us and try to piece together our lives. My life. It is also through this train of thought that I try to measure and gauge the people of the 19th century. No two people are the same, nobody runs their household the same way. I read some of the old cookbooks and household manuals and magazines and I think about all of our modern “how-to” books and Martha Stewart magazines, how most modern women scoff at the idea of having the time to pull of such domestic feats. And I think about sometimes in trying to understand the past we read those old books like the holy bible of 19th century housewives and assume that they all did things this way, which can’t possibly be true. (How many women do you know who are “Martha’s”? yeah I didn’t think so.) So how do I begin to process all of this? Why does this matter?
Well, I don’t suppose to most people it matters much. I think it matters to me because in a lot of ways I seek to emulate the lives of these historic women. I think about preserving the average-ness of my own life for future generations. (and in case I ever get famous people will want to obsess over the little details! )
This is why I save receipts, I do my best at recording things in my life. Thankfully with the advent of the internet and technology this is easier than ever and with so many people sharing every little thing online, it will aid future generations in piecing together us, their ancestors.
So how about you? What do you think people will piece together about your life based on some of the things you left behind? If they took a walk through your house or took a look at your shopping receipts what would they learn about you and your family and how live your day-to-day life? Think about it.
Well, I suppose I should start by telling ya’ll a little bit about us and why I’m writing this. So let’s start with “I” so you know who’s telling you all this! I am Bri, I’m 22 years old, I am an artist, a maker, a thinker, a dreamer. This blog is really mostly about me and my observations and such about life as I encounter it. My darling husband, Rob (he really is darling I don’t mean that sarcastically) I’m sure will show up regularly. He is 28, he’s a philosopher, a little theatric, funny, charming, handsome and kind of a goofball. and I love him, oodles and oodles.
We met on Mackinac Island, MI, in 2009-ish. It was my 3rd summer working on the island, his 2nd. I work for the State Historic Park as a Historic Interpreter (not for languages) and he was driving tour carriages. Part of my job was to stand behind Fort Mackinac in costume (an 1880’s dress) and talk to the tour carriages that came through to entice people to get off and visit the fort. Rob was/is big into history and re-enacting so a girl in period dress makes his heart go pitter-patter. and I played the violin to boot! So I caught his eye in my dress (the corset did help….) and my violin “serenades” and a little bit of flirting later he promised he’d come and see me at the Biddle House (an 1830’s home I also work in) So later that week Rob came down on one of the days I was cooking, and sat out back and we talked about wanting to ditch civilization and go live in the woods in a cabin, and live off the land like the pioneers and the mountain men. He told me he’d build me a cabin even though he’s no good at building things. The rest you could say is history. We started dating a month or so later, and then 4 months after that, he took me to upstate New York where he proposed to me on horseback looking out over the rolling hills in the early morning sun. I said yes. Then about a year later we got married in an old (1850’s) library in Kalamazoo, MI. On Christmas Eve.
Since then we have been figuring out how exactly to be married and to work with each other and to compromise. Which has led to a lot of revelations for me, a lot of thought about growing up and my parent’s marriage which has always been, and will always be, a fine example for me.
I have been incredibly blessed to have had a most fantastic childhood, there wasn’t really ever a time that I couldn’t wait to move out and get away from Mom and Dad, I mean sure, I had (have?) an attitude problem, but that was all me.
I don’t remember my parents ever fighting, at least not around us, my Mom is an amazing mother and did a lot to encourage us to pursue what we wanted in our schooling. She home schooled us, (me 1st-8th grade) and always had fun projects for us. She is always there for us, always. I’ll talk more about her later. 🙂
and then there’s my Dad, whom I’ve been told I resemble in more ways than one. Which I am really quite proud of. My Dad is a great guy. I don’t look up to many people, I don’t think much of the majority of people, but my Dad is the exception a million times over. I distinctly remember my siblings and I going to meet him at the door when he got home from work. He would/does hang out and talk and listen to us, even though sometimes we drive him crazy. He helped us build science projects (my freshman year of high school, I switched to public school, and in my physics class we had to build a Rube Goldberg Machine, well he spent the next week at his workbench in the basement building this thing, I would drop by and keep him company, see how it was coming along. The night before it was due he showed me how to work it, the next morning he drove me to school and we showed it to my teacher, who loved it. My Dad…er I, got an A on that assignment!) and he usually was the voice of reason when we were being crazy or irrational.
The reason I say all this, is because these two lovely people are the ones who helped to make me who I am today, they taught me to think, to learn, to love, to be kind, to be independent, to be who I am.
They are Why I am how I am, and I am so incredibly thankful for that. And so, in order for the rest of you to begin to understand me it is important that you begin to understand two of the most influential and important people in my life.