Why did we write an “Introduction to Spirituality” book?
The copy below is from our book, with slight alterations so it makes sense outside of the entire body of work. ———-
When my [Kristin’s] sister, Kathy, asked me to be my nephew Kyle’s godmother I was thrilled by the honor, yet apprehensive. Reluctantly I told her that I would love to be Kyle’s godmother, but I no longer considered myself to be “Christian,” rather I considered myself to be “spiritual” instead. I believed in a creative force (or God), but I enjoyed learning from all religions. This included Christianity, but my exploration of spirituality now embraced good and valuable teachings wherever I found them. If I were to take on the role, I would want to explore all beliefs with Kyle.
Kathy paused and said, “Well, the title says ‘godmother’ not ‘Christian mother,’ so that should be fine.”
Little did I know that one conversation would change my life so much!
Thrilled, I headed out to the bookstore. My plan was to get him a bunch of books on various religions and spiritual thoughts for his baptism. (Note: This was 1998 when there were big bookstores with lots of books in them to check out.) When I got there I was shocked by what I found. Or, rather, I was shocked by what I did not find. There was one whole area dedicated to religion for kids. Six of the seven bookshelves were on Christianity. One of the shelves was on Judaism. I remember looking around thinking, “Where are the rest?” Disappointed, I grabbed a Children’s Bible and a Children’s Torah. (Which did get a few odd looks at the baptismal party.)
But I still wanted to expose Kyle to more diverse thoughts and believes, so I decided to write something myself. I went to work reading, researching, and writing in my spare time. Eight years later I had the first version written of what I was calling “Spirituality for Kids.” It was definitely more all encompassing, including things like creation stories from Native Americans, explanations of reincarnation, purgatory, and the like, and I encouraged an open dialogue between kids and parents… but something was just off about it, and I did not know how to fix it.
Well, life and inspiration took my creative time away from writing “Spirituality for Kids.” I was still reading and researching, but my writing time was all going to a new different book – Unscribbling: the art of problem solving and fulfilling your desires. But I believe all things happen for a reason, and the delay and new project had their purpose.
After another two years, I moved from Chicago to Southern California, where I joined a writer’s group. At times, the group was just me and Dena Mercer (who was writing a memoir called Campfires Remembered about her time mule packing in the high Sierra Mountains with her daughter) and at other times was as many as five ladies reviewing and critiquing each other’s work.
When I was getting close to the end of writing Unscribbling, I decided to share “Spirituality for Kids” with the group as it felt like the time was right to get back to it. Having such a passion for this project, I could not wait to hear what they thought. After some silence, Lady #1 said, “There are two things you should never discuss – politics and religion.” Period. End of thought. She folded her hands on the table and was done.
Lady #2 pretty much agreed with Lady #1 and that was the end of her comment.
Lady #3, who was a friend of mine (and religious), didn’t comment on the writing, but took the time to insult my intelligence instead. And this was not an accidental insult in any way. It was well thought out and included a drawing to help explain to me EXACTLY how ignorant she thought I was. (I am not kidding. There was a drawing.)
Needless to say, I was very hurt. In writer’s group, you critique the writing, but you don’t judge the person.
I looked to Dena desperate to say something that would not make me feel like a waste of space. But, all things for a reason, “Spirituality for Kids” had gotten lost in all the writings we were suppose to read, and she had not read it, but promised to do so for next time.
Not wanting to bring it up again at the next meeting, Dena handed me a note at the end saying how wonderful, important and brave she thought the piece was and encouraged me to keep going. It was a wave of relief, but what a wake-up call for me. What I was writing was definitely not going to be welcomed by all – even though the writing encouraged respect and acceptance of all.
Over the next few months, Dena finished her book, two of the ladies dropped out of the group (for other reasons, not because of me as far as I know), my friend moved away (she did eventually finish her book too, and admittedly THIS book is light years better than the version she read) – so the group was back to me and Dena.
Dena was exploring what she wanted to write next and having finished Unscribbling I was getting back to “Spirituality for Kids.” Dena’s support and insight was wonderful! It helped that we shared a lot of the same beliefs and that Dena too had done a large amount of reading on the subject.
I could see Dena’s interest in “Spirituality for Kids,” which seemed to animate her much more than the other projects she was exploring, so one day I asked her if she would be interested in writing it with me. She said, “Yes!” – so we started an enlightening journey and collaboration.
Writing this book has been a process of discovery. It’s not like we created an outline and filled in the details. Rather we just wrote and explored.
Each of us would work on writing part, then we would exchange and the other would add, edit, change and challenge what was written. Back and forth. Back and forth. Round and round. Discussing. Exploring. Until we can’t remember who wrote what and the writing felt… true.
Then we would see how some thoughts fit together and rearrange the book accordingly. Then we would find more thoughts to add and go through the process all over again. Then do it all over again. Then do it all over again. (Seriously, it is kind of insane to think about.)
Many of the thoughts came through the great teachers and books we were blessed to have crossed our paths. But some of the thoughts were a little more intriguing… we would write the thought, and think, “I don’t think I have read anything about this, but something about it feels right.” So we would explore the thought more. I was always thrilled when later we would come across a book that also talked about the concept. (Whew! It was validating to confirm that the thought might be on the right track! But with spirituality, you really need to trust your own inner guidance.)
We kept writing and reorganizing and bit by bit it felt like more pieces of the puzzle were clicking into place. Often we would have part of an idea, then months later a new insight about that topic would flow in and – click – a new piece of the puzzle clicked into place.
Writing this book has been a process and a journey of discovery. We did not know what it would look like in the end. We just trusted the process to lead us where we needed to go. We trusted that the right thoughts/answers/insights would appear when we were ready to receive them. I have to say, the unveiling of insights was fascinating!
Thus, over 20 years after starting this journey I now have a book for my nephew. And I am also happy to say that there are now many more books on the subject too.
Our world is changing. We are becoming more accepting of other beliefs. Marriages are bringing together many faiths and we are all learning from one another. We are opening our minds and souls to new levels of understanding. Science and spirituality are reinforcing each other’s beliefs instead of contradicting one another. The world has become more open.
I still feel there is a need for this book, as none that I have found have quite taken the approach we have. And though the name has changed from Spirituality for Kids (that name was already taken) to Unpuzzling Spirituality, my hope is that this book might make our search for understanding, peace, harmony, and spiritual understanding even easier.
Exploring our spirituality is something that often does not happen until our later years in life. But, what kind of change could we put out into the world if we start exploring spirituality when kids are young? What change can happen if kids know they are wanted? If they know they are part of something larger than themselves? If they know they are vitally important in the world and can effect all around them in a positive way?
Starting this conversation earlier could make a world of difference in all our lives. My hope is that this book will allow you to start that conversation with your kids. Teach them an understanding that they will carry into the world and make this world an even better place.
Let’s get the conversation started…
Kristin Neperud Merz
It’s opening up what I’ve thought about but was never able to put in words. I’m really enjoying it!
Unpuzzling Spirituality is a true and absolute gift to the world… I marvel at how this book just "flows"…. I felt rather mesmerized, and, of course, as I am drawn in I am enriched as well. May the wisdom of your heart spread to all those receptive and those who need the gift of a "path" to open the way.
What is spirituality? How does spirituality relate to my life? How do I develop spiritual beliefs? How can I use my spiritual beliefs in my every day life? What is death?
Exploring your spirituality is a journey that can help you to figure out who you are, who you can be, how you fit into the world, and how you can make a difference in the world around you. But, understanding your spirituality can sometimes feel like you are putting together a puzzle without a picture to guide you. Unpuzzling Spirituality helps the reader put together the many spiritual puzzle-pieces to help create a big, happy, peaceful, purposeful, and loving life.
Let’s unpuzzle your spirituality together...