I grew up Catholic. I found that the Catholic church for me was not a good fit, having been told that basically everything I did wrong was my ticket straight to damnation. Got a tattoo? Going to hell. Ears pierced. Must be a sin. Boys…well, let me tell you, I can feel the flames at my toes as we speak. By the time I was a teenager, I knew that I did not belong in a church that, in my opinion, made God seem like a punisher and treated women as inferior beings. I decided not to get confirmed, because I did not feel it was my calling.

As a teenager, I lived in foster homes and had a very lonely existence. During that time, I turned away from anything that seemed spiritual. I connected spirituality with religion and having one more thing that was telling me I was bad. However, during that time, I also learned a lot about who I was and had some people who reached out to me and acted as mentors and friends. I always felt I had a power or a connection to the world, but I did not know what to call it.

At 16, I moved out of foster care, worked evenings and eventually dropped out of high school my senior year. I moved to Montana. At 17, I found out that I was pregnant. I decided to come back to Wisconsin to have my son, and I also decided to get my High School Equivalency Diploma.

At 21, I decided to go to college so I could make a living to support my son. I began college, still with a toddler in tow to many of my classes, because I could not afford daycare. After a couple years of trying to go to school during the day, working evenings and raising a child by myself, I decided I couldn’t go on with college at that time. A few years later though, I found the College of St. Catherine’s weekend program and was able to work full-time during the day and go to college on the weekends to finish my degree. At first, I thought that the Catholic nuns may come chase me out of the Catholic college, telling me that I didn’t belong there, but I found St. Catherine’s to be one of the most welcoming, feminist environments of my life.

In between leaving college and going back to St. Kate’s, I felt very lost in life and went through some very hard times. Jordan and I were very poor and I tried my best to be a good mom, but some of my choices of how I lived my life were not always wise. Through the darkness, I somehow gained an interest in women’s spirituality and began to explore feminism and women’s empowerment, due to being a poor, single mother and finding that resources were not available that should be and that society tended to look down on us for being poor. As time went on and I started at St. Catherine’s, I found more and more that my spirituality and my energy from within were the center of who I was. I looked deeper to find a place where I could celebrate my spirituality and my connection to the universe with a Spirit that I knew was benevolent and gave me the strength to get through the hard times.

Eventually I found the Unitarian Universalist (UU) church and knew that when I went there, I had found a home where I could be myself, the good, the bad, the off-beat, the quiet and the sometimes obnoxiously expressive self. UUs believe that we are all on our own path and respect the differences in each of us and our individual journey to enlightenment. That’s why I feel this is the place where I belong. These are beliefs that I can bring my son up in, knowing that he can make his own choices about his own journey. I have raised him to believe that we need to help others and do good in the world, and we try to do that in our community and our lives. Being a part of the UU is one more way that we can celebrate who we are, and this church provides us with a place where we can share energy with others.

Liz Jones is a writer, certified yoga instructor and wellness coach. She holds a Master's Degree in Organizational Leadership and Strategic Management, with a graduate certificate in Ethics and Leadership. Her undergraduate studies included business, writing, art, fitness and dance. She is trained in Reiki, Guided Imagery and various healing methods. She has also trained in Shotokan karate and other forms of marshal arts and self-defense. Her background includes non-profit management and working with various at-risk populations, women's empowerment workshops, and mentoring programs. Private yoga instruction and wellness coaching is available and a variety of classes are being taught in the community.

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