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Roxane B. Salonen, Published July 19 2013

Living Faith: Cultivating faith in summer, patio-style

From the time my 15-year-old uttered her first sentence, I’ve been meeting weekly with a faith-sharing sisterhood support group of sorts.

Back in the earlier days, we met at a church and employed a sitter so we mothers could string together a sentence or two without interruption. This time carved out to listen to and love one another while growing in our relationship with God fast became lifesaving.

We don’t call our group a Bible study because we don’t study the Bible so much as examine scripture readings for upcoming Sundays to determine how they apply to our everyday lives.

It’s an approach I’ve come to love. As a young mother, it seemed vital. Some Sundays I felt it might take an act of Congress just to get to church and another to make it through without a million interruptions or embarrassing episodes.

Reflecting on the readings beforehand helped me feel connected to my faith even while imprisoned in the cry room with a cranky toddler. At a time I needed to hear God’s word more than ever, I clung to this solace.

Though I no longer deal with diaper blow-outs, spilled cereal in the pews or untimely noises during meditative moments, I remain grateful for these pre-Sunday sessions, which now take place in one of our homes.

Throughout the years, our progesterone-laden group has passed around thousand tissues for tears, doled out gobs of experience-driven parenting advice, and welcomed many new babies. We’ve also helped usher one of our faith sisters into the next life, holding up our friend and one another as female pall-bearers at the goodbye.

Times like this, faith becomes very real, and having others with whom to journey means everything.

I’m grateful to have learned in college that though the wider faith community is essential to growing the faith – the garden that allows its cultivation – the smaller, more intimate faith community becomes the beautiful, fragrant flowerbed that adds life-giving vitality.

This summer has brought further enlightenment. Rather than disperse as usual for the dog days, our group decided mid-May that even though many organizations pause in the warmer months, our faith needs don’t.

Rather than meet in one of our homes, however, we chose the more relaxed environment of evenings on the patio of a local eatery.

We’ve changed things up in other ways, too. Together, we’ve taken part in a fundraiser, fed and dined with homeless men at the Dorothy Day House in Moorhead, and soon, we’re scheduled for a spirit-lifting group makeover on our night out.

By choosing to continue gathering, our group seems to have experienced a growth spurt this summer. Moving beyond the usual bounds, we’ve rediscovered faith in action as well as been refreshed by many moments of side-splitting laughter.

From this has come perhaps the greatest lesson so far: a reminder that the faith journey should be one not only filled with tears but plenty of joy-filled giggles, too.

In committing to the faith life, we commit to a life of dying to self. But we also agree to enter into a life that means more than the trials of today – a life best accomplished walking with others.

With intention, faith can grow just about everywhere, whether in a circle of a living room, a church sanctuary, a homeless-shelter kitchen, or out on a patio on a warm, summer night.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email roxanebsalonen@gmail.com