Paths, Pasts & Politics (and one more “P”)

Sunset on Lake Michigan from the back porch. Photography by Amaya Engleking

The past couple weeks after returning from a relaxing vacation on Lake Michigan (yes, actually relaxing, even with the baby and three year-old and cramming as many in-laws into a one-bathroom beach house as possible) have been dynamic.

Something I’ll mention even though it occurred in June but has widened the chasm I feel between myself and the institutionalized church: A friend of ours and his wife work as house parents to children whose parents are unable to care for them temporarily, with an organization funded by the Church of Christ. He visited us recently and expressed the dire need for more house parents and really hoped we would seriously consider taking on the role. We prayed, submitted applications and references, and went down to visit the facility. For numerous reasons we understood that, though we’d probably be good at the actual work, it was not something we could do at this point in our lives. Still, when Joshua asked if he could attend mass as well as the Church of Christ services, we were basically told by the president of the board that some of their well-endowed donors would immediately cut off their donations if they found out there were “Catholics” working for the organization. How Christian of them. Unfortunately, this seems to be the norm for the Body of Christ, that is, ALL those professing faith in Christ. They seem, at least in a country entrenched in identity politics, to want to be defined more by their factions than by their common Savior.

Feeling a surge in momentum to pursue a Master’s in creative writing, during this past month I’ve spent a lot of free time in anticipation and gratitude, finally feeling excited about the direction of my life after my children grow out of babyhood. I’ve been researching schools, contacting former professors from my college days a seeming lifetime ago, ordering transcripts, gathering potential references, getting Joshua stoked for a big change, and–the best part–compiling a manuscript. Do any of you beloved readers have MFA’s or have gone to grad school while raising a family? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Meanwhile, my sister publicly announced her campaign to run for state senate next year. In her biography on her campaign page, among her impressive qualifications, she mentions that she was once a homeless child and a human trafficking survivor. This news, unbeknownst to all of us in the family, has been the source of shock and turmoil and even doubt, but unfortunately very little compassion. With all of this past trauma coming to light, my dad has just been informed of the rape, something I was mostly hoping he would never have to discover. (Just for the record, my sister will have a ‘D’ next to her name, and my father, who ran for office in 1988, had an ‘R’. Yes, we are a divided family in so many ways.)

Oh yeah, one more thing. Remember that beach house? Well, just found out two days ago that I’m


2017, Amaya Engleking

*The cover image is my brilliant, beautiful, and brave sister.



  1. Maria Gianna Iannucci · August 7

    Amaya, your last line…such wonderful news. Focus on the internal new life, the rest will take care of itself. 💟

  2. Frank Hubeny · August 7

    Congratulations on your pregnancy! Best wishes.

  3. Cheryl Ruffing · August 7

    What an interesting post, Amaya. Congratulations a million times on your pregnancy! That is wonderful news.
    I’m not surprised to read about your experiences with the anti-Catholic bigotry. My family and I have been on the receiving end of a great deal of it lately, and yes, it has mostly come from “Christians” of other denominations.
    About the MFA: I would caution you to reconsider and carefully evaluate whether or not what you learn will actually be worth the money. My family and I spent yesterday afternoon with relatives who put a lot of faith and money into formal education, but I’ve not witnessed much in them that proves the investment to have been worth it (from a human, not worldly success, perspective).
    I’ve read a lot of your writing, and I’m very impressed. I wonder if what you’re really looking to gain with a formal program is structure/discipline/accountability/feedback. If so, I think you can find all of that for little more than an investment of time and determination.
    Please know that I’m not trying to discourage you from following the writing dream; I’m trying to encourage you explore different means of accomplishing it. Whatever you decide, I have all the faith in the world in your abilities.
    Oh, and a couple of book recommendations: “Mystery and Manners” by Flannery O’Connor and “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.

    • Gospel Isosceles · August 7

      Cheryl, thank you for the extensive and loving comment. To be clear, I will not pay to get another degree. One of the biggest mistakes in my life was taking out federal loans to supplement the cost of my undergrad degree. I have rebelled against higher education for quite some time. A part of me is even humiliated at the prospect of joining a program that will likely be comprised of students ten years younger than I, with no one to care for but themselves, and full of hopes and dreams. While I am not disillusioned thinking grad school will solve my problems, I do think it beneficial to my life goals. Like I said, I’m not interested whatsoever in low-residency, online programs (the ones you pay for) because I need teaching experience and mostly, mentorship and face-to-face connectivity. Another perspective, as a mother I hope my children will see me happy and using my God-given talents to serve others. Although my mom did everything for us, staying home with us before the divorce and working mundane jobs for her whole pay checks to go to the mortgage and food as a single mother of four teenagers, I wish I would have seen her happier. I wish I would have seen her content with her accomplishments and doing something she was passionate about. Now with a new baby, I won’t apply this year because I’m not willing to start school next year with a five month-old. But it gives me plenty of time to read potential professors’ work and gravitate to one or a few from whom I can learn the most.
      I can always learn from you and I am always grateful for your words of wisdom and encouragement. I will order the O’Connor book this week.

  4. Paul Dordal · August 7


  5. Nickel Boy Graphics · August 7

    Congratulations! That last one took me by surprise!

  6. weird weekends · August 7

    wow Congratulations!!!

  7. Angelo Devlin · August 7

    Great line

    “They seem, at least in a country entrenched in identity politics, to want to be defined more by their factions than by their common Savior.”

    The best line I heard from an audio history of Nietsche was.

    “There was only one “Christian” and he died on the cross.”

    – Freidrich Nietsche

    After experiencing much hypocrisy from “pro-fessors”, that line put it in perspective.
    It is more about being in the “group”, than behavior,

    When people can profess being “Christ” like, then they won’t have to.

  8. tonyalalonde · August 7


  9. saynotoclowns · September 2

    Wow, I was, quite frankly, shocked to read that donations would be cut if there were Catholics in their midst. We live in a small town where there are many denominations, but they all work together for certain things. (We are Lutheran). I can’t imagine that happening here, unless it does and I am unaware. How tragic, and especially for a cause such as that.
    God bless your sister’s journey now, and your decision making re your study etc, and well, your whole family 🙂

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