Commentary #18: “Elevation Church Is Kind Of Unsettling – And Kind Of Beautiful”


Image Credit:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

~Hebrews 10: 24-25 (ESV)

Freckled Italian has done it again!

Megan included this link in her blog post on Friday, March 25, as part of her recurring “Friday Favorites” series.

I took a sick day last Friday after having a massive panic attack (More about that later, in another blog post), so I was skimming through Facebook late in the afternoon and found Megan’s post. Her comments fascinated me, as well as the comments from her readers. I skimmed through the story, and let it marinate for a couple days.

Here’s the link: Elevation Church is kind of unsettling – and kind of beautiful

After the initial skim, I sat down and read through Katie’s account, and I found it fascinating. She went to Elevation Church’s Blakeney venue in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Megan lives. The photo at the beginning of this post is what you would see from your seat there on a Sunday morning.


Katie’s main observation:

“… I thought I’d try out the Blakeney venue because it’s a broadcast location, which means it functions like an indoor concert hall that’s loaded with media equipment plus a giant camera swiveling on a long arm to broadcast the sermon to other locations, and the Internet …”

So much technology!

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been to several Christian rock concerts in my time … but I can’t imagine experiencing that level every single Sunday.

I grew up in a traditional United Methodist Church – It’s been like a second home since I was four-years-old, and also where I married Al nearly five months ago.

However, over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to worship in multiple churches of different denominations – Catholic, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Baptist, Presbyterian, and a non-denominational church too.

In the last few years, I’ve seen the rise of more contemporary churches – Holding services in movie theaters, theater venues, and other modern spaces.

There’s a local one, called The Rising, that holds its services in The NorVa. I did some reading on it, and watched a few videos. I love the pastor’s enthusiasm and his messages about modern struggles and relating those to the Bible and Jesus’s time. I’m all for getting people interested in the church with different approaches – Rock music, modern messages, etc.

I think that’s great.

But, that’s not for me.

I agree with Sara – One of Megan’s regular readers / commentators.

She said:

“… I love how diverse they are and how enthusiastic everyone is, but it all feels like show and less like worship. I want my worship experience to feel honest, and it’s hard to feel that way when every Sunday is a production …”

She hit the nail on the head for me.

I don’t feel that way with Aldersgate, but I can see how that perception can be formed.

I’m on the team that runs the computers and projectors for the 8:30 and 11:00 services, and I’ve gotten a great perspective from sitting in the booth and watching everything unfold.

Our 8:30 service is contemporary – The praise band has guitars, electric drums, bass, and keyboard. It’s more relaxed – Come as you are.

Our 11:00 service is traditional – Our long-time organist plays, we sing the hymns. Most people dress in their Sunday best.

I feel comfortable, and it makes sense when you’ve attended the same church for over 20 years.

I thought Megan’s take was interesting:

“I tend to get obsessed with churches that end up with cult followings and this one is no different. I’ve been listening to podcast episodes and reading everything I can about Elevation ever since we moved here in 2014, so I was excited to see this piece on my Twitter feed. (Also I love the way Katie worded her beliefs: ‘be kind, love more, try to see the divine in others.’)”

I wasn’t sure about the “cult followings” comment at first, but after reading Katie’s account, it makes sense. She almost didn’t get into the venue that Sunday because of capacity. In seeing Aldersgate’s membership numbers go up and down over the years, I can understand how Elevation Church is attractive to many different people.

Again, I think that’s awesome that they’re booming and seeing overflow crowds, but that’s not for me. I’ve found that I prefer smaller gatherings, and Aldersgate fills that need for me, for now.

I loved Katie’s account, and I’m glad I read it and took the time to write this post.

“Be kind, love more, try to see the divine in others.”

Sounds perfect to me.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #10: “If I Am Missing Or Dead: A Sister’s Story Of Love, Murder, And Liberation”

If I Am Missing Or Dead

Image Credit:

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

~Friedrich Nietzsche

This book was recommended to me by a friend, Mike H. He’s a wonderful man from my church who gives blood at our blood drives. At the latest drive in February, I realized that he was a writer for the Daily Press, one of our local newspapers. I mentioned to him that I had studied journalism in college and created this little blog of mine.

Shortly thereafter, he messaged me on Facebook and we started chatting about the blog, writing, and a few mutual friends. I told him about the review I wrote on Tornado Warning, and that I was an abuse survivor.

That’s when he recommended this book.

I bought it almost immediately.

Once it arrived, it took me at least a week to get the courage to start reading it, but once I started, I couldn’t stop.

Janine’s story haunted me. Her abuse started at a younger age, and it happened repeatedly, by multiple men, over a period of 25-plus years. Reading her descriptions of her sexual assaults, in particular, made my skin crawl.

Still, reading those passages only drove me to continue. I knew the story was primarily about her sister, Amy, but it was fascinating to see her story interwoven with Amy’s. How two sisters suffered similar abuses, yet in different ways.

One of the biggest marks that it left on me was that Amy worked for Kimberly-Clark in Knoxville, Tennessee. My aunt was slated to transfer to Knoxville while working for K-C years ago, but it didn’t happen. My heart hammered, wondering if she had ever crossed paths with Amy.

Regardless, as an abuse survivor, several things that happened to Janine and Amy resonated with me.

These are several of the signs of abuse that I didn’t recognize until years later:

  • The constant feeling of walking on eggshells when talking to / being around your partner – You never feel calm / relaxed around them.
  • Being contacted multiple times by phone / text/ Facebook message, etc. – Always checking in, concerned if I was minutes late to something with him.
  • Restricting time with friends and family.
  • Manipulating ideas and thoughts (Example: John put the idea in my head that my own mother was one of the laziest people on this Earth, and he convinced me to tell her that. It was absolutely awful. Mom forgave me, but I still feel terrible about that, all these years later.)
  • Certain habits become routine / expected – John was always hunting for the new trends, and wanted me to go along with him. He wanted me to wear what he thought looked best. He asked me multiple times to change clothes (phrased as, “You’re wearing that?”), even if I felt great in what I had been wearing.

This book hit me harder than Tornado Warning, which surprised me. I remember reading the end of this book while Al was asleep next to me in bed, and my eyes filled with tears as I closed the book, filled with gratitude that I found and married the man who loves me for who I am and doesn’t want to change me.

I’m glad I read this. It renewed my gratitude that I am a survivor, but also renewed my awareness that women (and men) still suffer from, and die from, abuse every single day.

This book has motivated me, finally, to write down my own story, piece by piece.

5 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #13: The Heroin Epidemic


Image Credit:

This was a tough one to write about. It took a long time, I’m talking a couple of months, to get these words together.

Full disclosure: I cannot speak from experience here. I have never done any type of drug. I have not been directly affected by heroin addiction, in terms of my family or my friends.

However, my heart goes out to everyone who have been affected.

The main origin for this post started with a tragedy: One of my friends lost her sister to a heroin and cocaine overdose in 2015. Through her grief, she started a blog, called An Addict’s Sister. Her words have made me laugh, and they have made me cry. I look forward to every post, and I read every word. I never met her sister, but I feel like I’ve been introduced to her through these words.

I’ve said before that writing is one of my therapies. In this case, I truly believe this is helping her with the loss of her sister, and it has helped me learn about her, her sister, and learn a little bit about how destructive heroin can be.

Then, in early February, I found this piece on

I read this on my lunch hour at work, and I immediately wanted to dive into researching. It appeared that this new and different approach was becoming a success for this little town called Laconia – I wanted to see what else was being done.

I got my wish five days later – One of my local TV stations had this piece on their website:

This was fascinating to me. I’m a huge fan of Forensic Files. The show has profiled several cases where hair and fingernail testing was conducted to look for the presence of arsenic, or ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in antifreeze. But, this is the first time that I have heard of fingernail testing for drugs, particularly in Virginia. The best part, as they mention in the piece, is this kind of testing is a lot cheaper. I look forward to hearing more about this down the road.

Then, at the end of February, that same station reported something exciting:

I was thrilled. So many die of overdoses. Many of them die alone.

I’m happy that my state, and a city a stone’s throw away from me, is jumping on board. This is a good step forward.

The best news – Less than three weeks days after that story aired, this happened:

Success! I’m sure that felt good. And so quickly! It’s nice to see actual good news.

However, the battle is far from over.

In my city alone, Chesapeake, 23 people died from heroin overdoses in 2014. That year, there were 132 deaths in the “seven cities” of Hampton Roads.

  1. Chesapeake
  2. Hampton
  3. Newport News
  4. Norfolk
  5. Portsmouth
  6. Suffolk
  7. Virginia Beach

Personally, as happy as I am with the recent success of the VBPD, I believe in establishing programs like Laconia. I hope that a similar type of program is introduced to every police force, eventually. I realize that this kind of effort will take time, and money.

But, I think it’s worth it, don’t you?

One overdose is too many.

For more information:

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #17: “Disney Princesses As Modern Day Girls Living In The 21st Century”


Image Credit:

I’ve jabbered on, from time to time, how awesome my friend Megan P’s blog, Freckled Italian, is. She’s amazing!

Thanks to one of her more recent “Friday Favorites” posts, I found this link in one of the comments:

I love this concept!

Anoosha’s artwork is fun and colorful. Her descriptions made me laugh so hard! I read it, and re-read it, and read it again.

Usually, that’s a sign for me to write about something.

To be honest, I don’t really have a favorite Disney Princess.

As a child, I dressed up as Snow White and Pocahontas. I loved the plastic Pocahontas jewelry set from Toys R’ Us. One of our dear friends even made me a more historically accurate Pocahontas costume, and I was so sad when I realized that I had outgrown it. (Time to ask Mom if she kept it!)

I keep forgetting that Anastasia wasn’t a Disney Princess, but she is, in my eyes.

Mulan made me want to stand up against bullies.

Jane made me want to see the world and interact with animals.

Tiana furthered my love of history, and wanting to see New Orleans someday.

Merida made me want to learn archery and get back on a horse.

I’ve seen all of the movies, multiple times, although I must confess that I never watched The Little Mermaid all the way through until college.

Out of all of them that Anoosha illustrated (Note: Not all the princesses are featured), I think I most closely associate with Belle.

My mom has a picture of me, at six years old, happily smiling as Belle at Disney World has her hands on my shoulders.

I have dreamed of / longed for / obsessed over having the library that she explores for years – Every single detail.

I love that she’s portrayed as a fangirl, loving books and Doctor Who and fanfiction. It reminds me of the Nerdy, Geeky, and Damn Proud Of It post I wrote last year.

I love this piece. I’ve saved the web link, for future reference. I want to show this to my future children, to show them that life is not all about pink and dresses and castles and fairytales.

These young women are graceful, strong, intelligent, beautiful, adventurous, and kick-ass awesome.

Plus, this is a reminder to myself, as well. I love getting dressed up, putting on makeup, and feeling like a princess – Occasionally.

Anoosha turned the princesses into images that we all can relate to – and I’m over the moon excited about it.

I wonder if these illustrations could be turned into dolls?

Check out more of Anoosha’s work here.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Hampton Roads Edition (Katie and the Sleepover, Round 2)

Fuller House Youtube

Image Credit:

” … Everywhere you look, everywhere you go

There’s a heart (There’s a heart), a hand to hold onto.

When you’re lost out there and you’re all alone,

A light is waiting to carry you home … ”

~Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay

This all started with an announcement, way back in April 2015:

Full House Revival Fuller House Headed to Netflix in 2016!

… Say what?!

Disclaimer: I’m a big believer in zero spoilers for at least a week after a movie/TV show premieres. This is a spoiler-free zone!

FINALLY … Almost a YEAR later … The day arrived – February 26th!!

My workday was ridiculously slow. This always happens when there’s excitement in the air!

Katie agreed to arrive at 7:00 p.m. It worked out perfectly – Dinner was ready!

Reminiscent of our Star Wars: TFA weekend in December, the menu was spaghetti and sauce, garlic bread, and salad! Katie also brought dessert – Princess cupcakes!

Al headed upstairs to his computer, and Katie and I proceeded to plow through the first SIX episodes! It was awesome 🙂

We stayed up until 11:00 p.m. – A record for me!

Katie was the first to get up on Saturday morning, to get a shower.

We then proceeded to have the breakfast of champions: French toast sticks, scrambled eggs with cheese, and coffee!

After breakfast, Katie and I went to Leigh Allyn Jewelers in Western Branch to pick up the peridot combination ring that I ordered on Valentine’s Day.

The big event for this weekend was another trip to LUSH Handmade Cosmetics in MacArthur Mall. We both stocked up on bath bombs, bubble bars, and a few other things!

Katie Uyak

We loaded up! Photo Credit: Katie Uyak.

One thing that we didn’t get to do with Heaven in December was the Color IQ test at Sephora. It was great! They took three photos with this nifty hand-held camera, one at the forehead, one at the cheek area, and then one at the neck, and that helps formulate your IQ.

Katie has a red undertone, and I have a yellow undertone. The really nice girl helping us showed us different foundations, lip colors, and concealers! We also signed up for Sephora’s Beauty Insider program.

After the mall, we went to see my dad at NOAA.

It was his last weekend, he is now officially RETIRED!

He gave us a quick tour of the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson.

I drove the “Classic” wagon to Mom and Dad’s and we said hi to Mom. They just bought a replacement for the old girl … Sadface!

Then Katie and I picked up Al and we took Katie to Zaxby’s for the first time!

We got to episode 9 of Fuller House before Katie had to leave!

After Katie left, Al and I watched the rest of the episodes! I officially became a binge-watcher: All 13 episodes within 24 hours. Wow!

If you haven’t watched it, I recommend it. I didn’t grow up watching Full House, I discovered it at Longwood, thanks to ABC Family. But it’s one of my favorites.

I promised zero spoilers, and I’m upholding that.

I hope they do a Season 2! There’s a lot of potential.

Did you watch it? What did you think?

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂