I have always been religious in some way or another. From the age of 3 to now, I have always gone to church with my parents and attended a private Christian school from pre-k to 6th grade. Even though I grew up Christian and my family went to church, they weren't your standard hateful, judgmental, "crazy" Christians. My parents raised me in the best possible way, teaching me that everyone is always welcome at church and that Jesus loves everyone (yes, including gay people for the people out there who still don't understand this).

The private Christian school I attended was affiliated with a mega church that my family attended and worked at (so I got a good discount on tuition because they worked there). When I started 6th grade, my parents told me one day after school that I would have to go to a new school next year because they wouldn't be able to afford my tuition anymore, meaning that they wouldn't be working at that church anymore either. I was so shocked, I spent my whole childhood thinking that I would be going to that school until senior year and that when my parents both enjoyed their jobs.

That was when my dad told me that he really wanted to start his own church with a couple of his coworkers/friends. I remember being surprised but not afraid of what life would hold next. It made sense to me in some way seeing my dad as a pastor. So that turned into planning for a year of what his church, "Bloom" would look like. We wanted it to be a church that welcomed everyone and actually meant that; we wanted it to be a community. So they came up with the slogan "No judging, no politics, just Jesus" as well as "Embrace church, embrace people, embrace community.". He wanted Bloom to be everything that the standard American Christian church isn't, and I loved it.

When you are a kid, you don't really see the judgment and hate Christians can exude, but when you are an older teen or an adult, woah. We were creating something against the religious status quo, peoples opinions were always out there, and a lot of people didn't like how loving and accepting our church was (ironic since Jesus's message is to love everyone).

The biggest debate was that we allowed gay people to come and people who didn't believe in god or believed in something else. The church is supposed to be for everyone, regardless of who they are, what they do or don't believe in. If you want to be that person who thinks gay people belong in hell based off of one verse in the bible, that's your prerogative. But that's definitely not what I would want in a God.

Bloom has been around for almost 10 years, and it has had so many changes. We have been in a lot of different buildings, have had a lot of people come and stay, and had many people leave. My dad has done so much over the past 10 years, it blows my mind. No one can really understand the stress he was under unless you were living in my house. Along with my dad, my mom and I were always there to deal with Bloom stuff and it was not fun most of the time.

It's hard to deal with people who don't want to volunteer to help out with setting up, or if someone forgets something important, or if there's something difficult happening with one of the people who attend. Even though my dad was a pastor and would speak on Sunday's, he would spend the rest of his week meeting with people, writing, doing finances, accounting, everything that needed to be done to have Bloom run.

2018 was a difficult year for my family, and my dad had been thinking about not being a pastor anymore for a while. I could tell that he was burning out and that it was really affecting him in a negative way. When you have to give yourself to everyone for 10 years and rarely have anyone give back to you, it's exhausting. Two Sundays ago marked his last day as a pastor at Bloom and the church was signed off to two other people who attend that are taking over. It was one of the most beautiful, emotional Sundays I have ever seen in my life. So many people had many amazing things to say (I was way too teared up the whole time to say anything) and it was a good close to my dad's journey with Bloom.

I am excited to see what this next phase of my dad's life, as well as for my mom and me. It will be very different to no longer have certain responsibilities every week and to not have to deal with difficult situations. Even though my dad is no longer at Bloom, it will continue to be a place that teaches the love of Jesus and be a place where people can be inspired to be good people to everyone without judgment. Many family members don't understand why my dad has decided to step down and even go far enough as to question if God is "still leading him". All I have to say to that is that him leaving was not a spur of the moment decision and he has spent a lot of time talking to God about it and this is what he needs to do, and his happiness is all that matters.