Dear Annie: We raised our children in church, and then lost our religion. There were so many reasons for that, but there's no going back to any church in the future. Part of our family, a very small part, accepts this. But most have a problem with it. Adding insult to injury, we live in the Bible Belt, and having no religion is very suspect here. The political climate makes all of this even more unbearable.

We can't leave; this is our home. We can't express an opinion with some family members because we'd get disowned or shunned or both. Some of our relationships with close family members have never been the same since we left church, which was many years ago.

All of this only reinforces our decision. Who wants anything to do with this type of closed-mindedness? But we have tremendous guilt over raising our children in this way, and then walking away from it. Our only defense is that we were young and dumb and didn't think for ourselves until much later. We were obedient children. We did what we were told, and this is where we ended up.

Religion in the Bible Belt is more than belief; it's a cultural inheritance. How do we move on and keep our roots, too? One child is distant toward us, but the others are forgiving. It seems like so much of our energy is focused on the distant child, rather than enjoying the others who get where we're coming from and feel as we do. We feel emotionally blackmailed by this child.

I hope you can shed some light on this for me. I love life and feel connected to the universe in so many ways. I just want to spend the remainder of my time enjoying the journey, seeking ways to help others and being truly present in the moment.

Thank you, Annie! I love your column and your thoughtful advice. -- Ironically Blessed

Dear Ironically Blessed: You sound too blessed to be stressed about what other people are thinking about you.

When you raised your children, you did the best you could with what you thought was right at the time. Then you changed your mind about what you thought was right for yourself and your family. The issue is not whether it was right or wrong to raise your children in a church. The issue how to let go of this guilt and to give yourself a break about the choices you made in the past and instead focus on the choices you are making right now.

Guilt and shame will not lead you to your goal of wanting to love the life you live.

If you want to spend your time enjoying the journey and living in the present moment, then continue focusing on the positive and all the beauty of life. No matter what your religion, your goal of wanting to help others is commendable.

Even though it is painful that one of your children is distant from you now, continue to show your child compassion and love. Hopefully, he or she will come around.

In the words of Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, "Be who you are and say what you feel, because in the end those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter."

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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