Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Origins of Lord & Taylor Lady

Stacy is curious how I met Trish. It's a funny enough story, I thought I'd share. I should probably have checked with Trish first before writing this missive. But I didn't. She can fly her butt down here and kick me in person. Then I'll take her out for some amazing TexMex.

I'm gonna throw in some background here because it's significant to the story in my mind. And this'll be a long one. I imagine Stacy & Trish are the only ones that will finish it!

I grew up very dogmatic in a rather messed up church. The people were like my extended family. I'll leave the "messed up" label pretty much squarely on the shoulders of our preacher. But I was saddled with a lot of theology I couldn't reconcile to a loving God. When my parents left that church, there were some rather well-meaning but screwed up attempts to keep me and some of my siblings there. I then went to a Christian college that was actually really great. But I had a life crisis or two, made some bad decisions and quit that school with a bad taste in my mouth due to what I perceived as the hypocrisy of Christians.

Add to that the general stupidity of most humans. So of course, when I ran across an idiot who just happened to be a Christian, I added it to the mental box labeled "Yet another bone-headed Christian that solidifies my feeling that I will never participate in organized religion again."

So with chip firmly on shoulder, I decided I would tackle the world with just God. Those fallible humans continually pissed me off. So I would tolerate them and just deal with God directly.

I walked a very precarious line for many years. I am convinced I survived my own stupidity due to the sheer volume of prayers that went up on my behalf from my mom, her sisters, our church friends, people who knew me and actually had a clue about God, etc. I now know there were tons of people praying for me my whole life.

I worked in night clubs in Boston as a coat girl, waitress and eventually bouncer. I sang in bands and rock theater in Boston. I did professional photography for bands in Boston. I basically lived in clubs and embraced a large part of the culture therein. I had no self esteem but pretended to be the most amazingly kick-ass strong woman. As a bouncer, I acted my way into being a well known persona in the Boston club scene. People believed the bravado and some were actually afraid of me. I never let go of God - talked to him constantly. But I was going to do things MY way. I tried to embrace all beliefs. I was going to be the tolerant cool Christian. I was going to be the open minded Christian. On the way, my faith got rather muddy and confused.

When my kids were born, I wanted to give them a Godly foundation but hated the thought of going to a church where they would be turned into little dogma-spewing idiots. So I always told people how I wanted to find a church for my kids but I never EVER thought of actually doing anything about it.

Enter my cousin Lorraine. And by cousin, I mean step second cousin. If there is such a thing. She's the daughter of my step-dad's cousin. And we didn't know each other. We knew OF each other. But I moved into her town. And our parents lived near each other in Florida. And I'm sure there were conversations between them that gently suggested that maybe my cousin could invite me to church. Well, after living in her town for almost 2 years, she called me one day - out of the blue. Did I want to visit her church with her. Um...hold on while I get my mental tome of reasons why I couldn't go. But God thumped me in the back of the head and said, oh just GO already. And I surprised Lorraine and myself by saying yes.

I told my friend Alicia that I was going to this wacky church we all heard about in Boston. They advertise on the subway and buses. They have signs that say things like "Come have coffee and bagels with us" or something like that. I mean, I was like who serves coffee and bagels at church? This church must not be very good if they have to lure people with food. But my former college roommate, KimmyJo, used to go there. And she's not nuts. Well, she loves me so she just might be nuts. But I digress. Anyway, Alicia agreed to go with me. Which made me nervous. Alicia is used to Catholic mass. Nice predictable sleepy mass. I didn't know if this church was charismatic or what. I didn't know if they'd be swinging from chandeliers or what. So told her, we'll sit in the back and if it gets weird, we're OUTTA there!

We went around the beginning of the Lenten season. Which I don't keep track of. But the Cambridge Vineyard was just starting that year's 40 Days of Faith. I had never heard of it and didn't really pay much attention to the announcements about it. But the pastor (who I didn't know was the pastor because he was just so laid back I figured he was just the guy doing announcements) announced they were bringing up someone to give a testimony about the 40 Days of Faith.

Enter Trish. Now, in my last post, I confessed that I give instant snap judgements in my head. All the time. And Trish was just fodder for my cynical attitude. She just looked the part of the perfect Christian woman - a person to whom I would never relate or to whom I would have nothing to say. I had this warped idea that all women who claim to be "true Christians" were wimpy little lemmings who are just vapid yes-men to their boyfriends or husbands. It's awful. But that's where my head was at as perfect Trish took the stage. And she was just adorable. And I mean that in a way that made the cynical I'm-too-cool-for-anything me roll her eyes. And I'm sure I did.

Trish was well put together. In my mind, she looked like a model out of the LL Bean women's catalog. Or someone who shops at (shudder) Talbot's. Or even worse - Lord & Taylor. So I dubbed her "Lord & Taylor Lady" in my mind. Ain't I just a loving little God girl!

So Lord & Taylor Lady proceeds to give her testimony. Which fell on my cynical ears like so much drivel. I heard her say something about how she had wanted a husband. At that point, Alicia and I shared a rolling eye look. Granted, both of us had always wanted a wonderful Christian husband. But we knew that wasn't a cool thing to admit so we sneered away. Trish basically gave a great testimony and I imagine it was just a teaser for her book that's coming. But at the time, I didn't know that and I was a snotty little piece of crap and just rolled my eyes thinking, if I ran into this woman at the bagel table, she'd ignore me. We'd have NOTHING to say to each other.

I figure that's when God laughed and made other plans.

Alicia and I never stopped going to that church. We loved it. It's a freaking amazing church. In spite of the Lord & Taylor Lady and all the well put together people that attend along with her.

At that time in 2005, that Vineyard offered a class called Alpha (now called SEEK). It was for those "on the cutting edge of faith". Not meaning your faith is totally cool and alternative. Meaning you're not quite sure what all you believe or whether you believe anything at all. But you're coming to church so that's something. This class was there to address those people. I was those people. I was always cool with God. But I had serious doubts about almost every other aspect of Christianity. Was Jesus divine or just a great prophet? Was the bible inspired word or just a political collection of writings? Were there actually some real Christians that might not make me want to punch them collectively in the heads?

I decided to go to Alpha. I mean, hey, they fed you dinner and it was only once a week. What's not to like?

The first night, I show up feeling like a total dork. I had laughed with my coworkers going, "I can't stay late tonight. Because I'm going to... a BIBLE class!!!" They know me. They've known me during all my various fads and stages. So this was rather interesting to them as well. But off I went for my free meal.

When I walked in, the first person I saw was this well put together guy. Young dude, probably in his 30s. Extremely good looking and very happy. Great. Just what I need. A Happy Handsome Guy to not be able to relate to. And then what to my wondering eyes should appear? But a Lord & Taylor Lady. Yah. Doesn't it just figure that the woman I sat judging and rolling my eyes at - she was one of the leaders. So was Happy Handsome Guy. The other two leaders were equally not in my universe. There was the Cerebral Writer Guy who used way too many $7 words. And then there was Cute Perky Preppy girl. I'm sure they'd all laugh at my generalized snap judgements of them. But honestly, I sized them all up as people I would have NOTHING in common with. Along with the 25 or so other people that showed up looking all "What am I doing here?" with me.

That group of people spent the many weeks did we spend together? Ten? I have no idea. Trish, how many weeks was that? Every week, a few people would drop out. But eventually, we got a solid group of committed dorks. And we hashed it all out together. We'd talk, question, sneer, confess, accuse, talk more, question more. It was unbelievable. That class opened my eyes in amazing ways. And one of the first things God did was show me that Lord & Taylor Lady was just a shmoe like me. With nicer clothes. And smoother hair. And a really cool husband who laughed at my Lord & Taylor description. He assured me that, at home, she rarely gets out of her pajamas and, when she does, she dresses like a normal person.

During that class, God used Lord & Taylor his conduit. He used all the leaders. But especially her. I opened up about things with her that I never told anyone. God gave her huge insight into how I worked.

A small group of people from that class begged the leaders if they would start a new small group with us. We dubbed it Beta (ain't we clevah!). It was the best small group I've ever been part of. We were still all newly renewed in God. So it was so easy for us to share openly and honestly. No one faking anything. I'm still very close with the Fabulously Tall Rowing Couple from that class (another couple I figured I'd have nothing in common with and now I adore them).

That group prayed with and for me as I agonized over whether to move to Austin. I mean, God just found me the perfect church!! Should I leave it??? And when I decided to go, they all encouraged me. Trish has been one of my loudest and most steady cheerleaders.

When I discovered my husband didn't love me and he loved someone else, I called Trish first. I was terrified of doing the wrong thing. I called her and she told me about how That Dog had dental surgery and all sorts of stuff before I finally had the guts to blurt out my new horror show. Once again, God used Trish as his messenger. She gave me ways to pray about it that I never would have thought of. She told me to fight for my marriage and not stand timidly by in the name of being polite or politically correct. She taught me how to put in my shark teeth while still holding on to God. And she has never left my side or told me I suck or anything.

Trish means more to me than she knows. I love her humor. I love her intelligence. I love her fashion sense. I can't wait to read her book because I just KNOW she has dedicated at least 3 chapters that are all about ME! (I kid) She is one of my strongest and most trusted God friends.

God - thank you for giving Lorraine courage to invite me to that wacky bagel church. Thank you for letting Alicia be open enough to go with me. And thank you for putting that nutty Lord & Taylor Lady on the stage that Sunday! Amen.


Sarakastic said...

This is one of the greatest philosophical questions of our time, "Were there actually some real Christians that might not make me want to punch them collectively in the heads?". I loved your post, it should be a book, or a movie. Trish Rocks!

Beth said...

I'm not exactly sure why, but I had tears in my eyes after reading this. That is such a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing. This really touched my heart and hit close to home.

Trish Ryan said...

I love you right back...and I thank God (and Lorraine) for nudging you to come to the wacky bagel church AND the Alpha class...And for not letting you beat me up once you got there :)

You are missed, up here in Cambridge!

Kendra said...

I love reading that testimony . . I know I had heard most of it, but I loved reading some new details. I think I would like to meet Trish when she comes to Austin for a visit sometime. I feel like I know her already and have never met her! I've been thinking about you today . . hope the party Saturday is a BLAST!! love you

Jane said...

I read every word to the very end! I love this post so much. Through my divorce, I have come to realize how blessed and essential it is to have a few best friends that get you through it all. You are so lucky to have Trish as your cheerleader.

Angela Marie said...

I read the first word to the last word. Your friendship with Trish is real special... you are trully blessed to have a friend such as Trish.

Lynette~ I love your honesty! Thank you for that. I feel you are the "Genuine" deal. So refreshing!

ellesappelle said...

Awesome post! What a great story.

Stacy said...

Great story! I love your honesty.

Stacy said...

Oh, one more thing: Out of curiosity, is there something with Vineyard churches and carbs? I hear the Milan Vineyard Church has a huge brunch spread. My church just has the standard coffee, juice, and donut holes.

LEstes65 said...

Stacy: I've only been to 4 Vineyards so far. The Cambridge one had very impressively healthy fair. I imagine that stems from all the dietary limitations surrounding most everyone I ever knew in Boston. But as a mom of two little boys, I appreciated the bagels, fruit, juice and other healthy snacks. What parent needs their kids hopped up on sugar just before lunch?

My current church in Austin served the dreaded Krispy Kreme donuts when I got there. And they had coffee & lemonade. We had to hold the kids back until 10:15 and then they were usually almost all gone by 10:17. HA! When I started helping with food service, I switched them to bagels, fruit (apples, bananas, strawberries & grapes), and goldfish crackers. I heard "Hey! Where are the donuts?!" for about two weeks. And then I heard most parents saying how glad they were for the change.

So Vineyards that I've been to know how to make your early-morning tummy happy. But I think it just depends who is on the food service ministry team.

Belle-ah said...

Well, I bet you might lable me another "Cute Perky Preppy girl" though I would prefer....drop dead gorgeous (but I will settle for cute)...anyway I appreciate your transparency...we are all in those shoes at some point.

Gudl said...

I read the whole post, too, and found it interesting! I can very much relate.
God's people are 'one big family', right?!
Small groups are great, too.
I am glad I found your blog.