Just Some Things

I can’t believe it’s already mid-October.

Dylan and I celebrated our eighth anniversary on the eighth. <–That sounds surreal.

Nellie is going to be a tiger for Halloween, we found a cheap second-hand costume from Old Navy that is super cute and will be so warm and snuggly–both points that fit the bill for this North Dakotan mama. Dylan and I are still working on Ada to agree to be a tiger trainer/circus trainer. We may have ideolized (I just made that up) so well that she’s unsure she wants to be someone who’s “so mean to animals” and that “animals are meant to live in the wild and not do tricks.”

We’ve picked up our “Eat the World” Challenge again and are trying to at least get through the “Bs” before the end of 2013. Right now we’re planning our Brazilian meal and combining it with another new dinner theme (apparently, I really like theme-y things, well actually, I always knew that)–movie nights. Movie nights we watch a movie together as a family and eat dinner at the same time and have cutesy foods to match the characters/setting of the story line. The girls love it because it’s so against the grain of eating together at the dinner table. Anyhow, Brazil will be combined with movie night because we checked out “Rio” at the library this weekend and thought it would be a fun tie-in. The girls will be boggled. Minds will be blown.

Work is going great–it’s been busy up to my eyeballs but I continue to love it just as much as when I started. I’d consider myself one lucky ducky in that realm.

Dylan is half-way through his student teaching at one of the highschools in town. It’s been hard to juggle the schedules but  I guess it’s boot camp for when he graduates and becomes a teacher of his own domain. Word on the street is that he’s doing pretty awesome, but that’s no surprise here. (I can hear him rolling his eyes now. Literally, hear the movement.)

Ada has started kindergarten and she’s a rockstar. Learning her letters and phonics, she’s so excited to read. She’s been coming home with little “I Can Read”-type books and showing off her new sight-word skills. I continue to be amazed at the collective knowledge she’s gained in such a short period of time, what happened to my baby?

AND speaking of babies (no, not that), my Nellie’s one month or so away from turning 3! THREE?! In honor of the occasion she has chosen to have a “Kung-Fu Princess” themed birthday party. Thankgoodnesstobetsy for Pinterest.

Ufta.

And then there’s this whole shutdown business…

Maybe that’s a good place to stop for now.

Fear not, I will be back.

When there are NO Words

I feel the need to write today.

There are too many thoughts in my head and they need to get out.

I find that writing is cathartic, when it’s unplanned, when it’s most needed.

And today…well today is certainly one of those days.

I’ve been avoiding news sources like the black plague. So much pain, so much hurt, so much injustice these days that this poor Mama’s heart just breaks and re-breaks every time I scan the latest news header. Tornados, rock slides, car accidents…all of it unbearable to me and I feel a wash of pain and grief come over me in solidarity for the people and families who have been affected irrevocably.

In an instant.

A.mere.instant.

And so I hug my children a little bit tighter, selfishly and thankfully, tearfully acknowledging that I have no control over anything other than how I live now.

As a talker, I know that words are the first thing that I want to offer to people, hurting or not. However, all too often I hear things like “Be strong” tossed around to the hurting or “God’s plan…” or “Don’t forget about how blessed you still are…” immediately during these trying times, as if a verbal-one-for-all-bandaid could do any good…if there was even such a thing. (And you know me, I love a good cliché.)

To those people I would say, SHUT UP.

I have no time for you, the hurting have no time for you, and there simply is NO TIME for you.

There is a time and place for everything. God is everywhere always, I truly believe that, and I truly believe that God gave us a wide range of emotions to express our lives to one another, our souls. When grief, when sadness, when despair are so very, very fresh (and even lingering) these are not the words that those of us on our grieving journeys need to hear.

What we need are our communities to come alongside us and to hold us up in love. To comfort…to hold… to deliver the standard Midwestern hotdish or pan of bars. More often than not, the last thing that we need are words. Because really, how can you explain away lives taken too soon? Evils and accidents, natural disasters with consequences that rend God’s heart? What words can you give that would comfort a parent left to live their days without the joys and pains of their child?

If anything, perhaps, we should hug our children and our spouses, our family and friends a bit tighter, and revel in the blessings that permeate our lives; and in doing so as a community, honor those who grieve by extending our ears to listen and shoulders to help bear the burden.

I am #2599

I am #2599.

I am a mother of two daughters.

I am a woman and a wife.

I am a daughter and a sister.

I am an aunt and a niece.

I am a grand daughter and a daughter-in-law.

I am adopted.

I am a sister-in-law, a mentor, a friend, a cousin, an ex-girlfriend, a woman of color.

I am a woman saved by Grace.

I am a bad poet, a jaded idealist, an adventurer, a writer, a musician, a dreamer, a baker, a cook, an artist, a reader, a lover of fashion, a crusader, a supervisor, a change maker, a change yearner, a decorator, a believer of prayer, a searching soul.

I am passionate, loud, stubborn, sensitive, brash, compassionate, competitive, loving, annoying, zealous, animated, joy-seeking, inquisitive, independent, dependent, pessimistic with a twist of sunshine, goal-oriented, achieving, path making, privileged, and humbled daily.

And yet it feels that the church only focuses on one thing.

My vagina.

I am so much more than my lady parts. My vagina. My uterus. My birth control. My reproductive rights. My fertility. My pregnancies. My miscarriage. My sexual history. My purity. My impurity. My female-ness. 

Christ knows I am more.

He knows women are more.

I am a daughter of His.

I am a follower.

I am a player in humanity.

And because of this,

I am #2599.

NOTE: I am stealing and reposting Rachel Held Evans’ comment policy concerning the positional content of this post. It reads as follows: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.

Silence worth breaking

I know I’ve been quiet lately–eventually things will speed up again, but truthfully, I think that I’m done apologizing for staggered posts. I post when I’m ready and when the spirit moves. Again, this blog is a record of our life together as we live it and I think that the pace of posts also reflects that.

Work is good. Hard, confusing, challenging, but I couldn’t be happier that I decided to pursue the resettlement coordinator position. I look forward to learning more each day and becoming the best in my specialized area of the nonprofit world as I can be. Certainly there isn’t a lack of need for advocates within this world community we are a part (or is that apart?) of.

Which brings me back to why I’m posting today. There’s an article floating around my Facebook page and, naturally, I clicked through to see why it was stirring up so much interest with my striving-for-better-community friends. It’s awesome. Truly, tears were brought forth (which after having children isn’t all too hard to encourage forth but these were well earned) and I immediately felt a nudging to pass it along.

The article is titled “After Steubenville: 25 Things Our Sons need to know about Manhood” written by Ann Voskamp. I’ve copied and pasted the article below so that the lazy of us (myself included), would not miss out on a truly heartfelt and thought-out piece. Women of the world, we must stand together and raise our sons and daughters to know that they are responsible for themselves and their reactions, their responses. That there is no excuse for holding other’s to blame when we ourselves choose what is wrong. Grace has been extended to us all equally, whether you’re a card-holding penis or vagina owner (<–just in case you thought I was becoming a preacher), we deserve it to ourselves and our community to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, our choices…our inaction. I’m calling us out, community lovers, community pursuers, we need to stop standing by and waiting for someone else to change the things we hate. We need to act.

I am a firm believer that everything else will fall into place after that.

After Steubenville: 25 Things Our Sons need to know about Manhood

by Ann Voskamp

Dear Son,

When you’re the mother of four sons, Steubenville is about us.

Steubenville is about having a conversation with sons about hard things and asking you to do holy things.

Because a Steubenville doesn’t begin with football and it doesn’t begin with alcohol and it doesn’t begin with unsupervised jocks with inflated egos and shriveled morals. It begins with one woman bringing home a man-child in her arms, one mama unwrapping that blanket and what it means to raise up a man.

It begins with one mama looking into her son’s eyes for the next 18 years and showing him what it means to be a woman.

I brought you home when I was 21.

I cradled you, you crying and me crying, and the essence of me ran liquid and milky and a woman poured out of herself to keep you alive. You rooted hungry and it was the roots of a woman that nourished you. It was a woman who gave you life, who was the grace of God that kept you alive, who is the mother of all the living.

I held you when fever burned your forehead. And I stroked back your hair when your stomach churned and I cleaned us both up when you vomited all over everything. I opened books for you and stoked your mind and unpacked a world before you and I laid down me to make more of you and it wasn’t a sacrifice but the unexpected grace of motherhood.

We talked about life being much more than you can see, so you knew that a woman is always more more than you can see. I kept trying to be at peace in my own body so that you would always see women as more than a body. And I always told you that I’ve only ever met beautiful people. Ugly is only a state of soul.

In 8 short weeks from today, you’ll blow out your candles and look up across the table and that baby I brought home at 21 will be 18. I don’t know how that happened. I got a lot wrong. And there’ll be a mother in Steubenville who will be shattered that her teen son’s behind bars and how in the world did that happen. We’re all getting a lot wrong.

Like that night I was 19 and I saw it in my rear view mirror, how a 20-something man reached over and started fondling a terrified 14 year-old sleeping girl. How he shrugged his shoulders when we confronted him, like he was brushing away an annoying fly. How there were girls that whispered that he’d grabbed them too in the dark of a car when he drove them home from youth group, how there were all these shy and ashamed girls who were violated and forced and indifferently robbed.

I want to tell you, son — we were all church kids. There was no alcohol. There were no parties. There were no football teams.

There were young men who opened their Bibles and didn’t value the worth of a God-fashioned woman made for glory, young men who sang worship songs and satiated their lust by ripping off the dignity of a sacred human being, young men who said women were the weaker vessel meant let’s drink them dry and be merry.

We went to the church elders.

A handful of us girls with one teenage boy who knew what he saw and wasn’t afraid, we went to the elders and sat there with our hands literally shaking and our mouths impossibly dry and we tried to find words for what should never have to be said. My cheeks and throat burned.

And I have never told anyone what happened next, but after Steubenville, to stay silent is to let perpetrators perpetuate.

We were looked in the eye, Son, and what we were told, those words tried to shatter God —

“Boys will be boys.”

Son. When the prevailing thinking is boys will be boys — girls will be garbage.

And that is never the heart of God.

That’s what you have to get, Son — Real Manhood knows the heart of God for the daughters of His heart.

Your Dad is one of those men. When he heard of what happened in Steubenville, how boys your age had violated a young woman with such indifference and ignorance, he said it to me quiet –

Unless a man looks to Jesus, a man doesn’t know how to treat a woman.

So this is what your dad and I want you to get, to get this and never forget it: that when God decided to pull on skin and make His visitation into the world, He didn’t show up in some backroom of an inner boy’s club or regale us with some black tie inaugural affair.

This is what God chose as best, this is where He first became one of us: God chose to make His entry point into the world through the holy space of a woman, to enfold Himself inside of a woman, to drink of a woman, be held and nourished and cared for by a woman — that’s the jolting truth of how God loves His daughters with His honor.

That Christ never beat down a woman with harsh words or lusting eyes or sneering innuendos, but He stepped in and stopped a broken woman from the abuse of angry men. Christ came to the defense of a hurting woman and the Son of Man stood between her ache and her attackers and He lifted the weight of shame from her and cupped her heart with hope and wrote a new future into the dust and dirt of everything and he saved. her. life. That’s how God loves His daughters with His defense.

That Christ didn’t degrade women in His talk, but He made women heroes in His storiesHe invited a woman with a coin and broom to reveal the truth about the Kingdom of God. He honored an intentional woman with an unjust judge as unveiling the character of God. He elevated a lonely, unmarried woman who dropped her meager resources into the temple treasury as the rebuke of God for all the rich and religious. That’s how God loves His daughters with His words.

That Christ didn’t demonize women but He accepted the presence of a woman reviled by the self-righteous, He sat with the scandalous woman the righteous regarded as damaged goods, He welcomed the rejected and the immodest though he lost the respect of the religious. That’s how God loves His daughter with His grace.

That when Christ stepped out of that black tomb, he still didn’t choose to first manifest Himself to prestigious officials, religious leaders, the Twelve, but instead He revealed Himself first to the women, He entrusted the veracity of His resurrection to the testimony of the women, He offered the privilege of proclaiming Christ as the risen Savior to the women, though no court at the time would accept their testimony. That’s how God loves His daughters with His regard.

So your Dad wanted you to know — when you turn the pages of the Bible, Son, let everything you read of women be shaped by how Jesus sealed His view and value of women.

Let Christ shape you and not the magazine covers of the Walmart checkout: Real Manhood never objectifies women. Real Manhood edifies women.

Real Manhood means you don’t get drunk, and a man can get drunk on a lot more than alcohol.

Men drunk on power, on control, on ego, lose more than all inhibition — they lose The Way, their own souls. Men drunk on anything can destroy everything and real manhood thirsts for righteousness.

Real Manhood means peer pressure only makes you stronger in Christ.

That in a culture where it’s the tendency to bend, you’ll stand. That in situations where there’s tendency to look the other way, you’ll look for help. That, at times in the church when there’s a tendency to be divisive on the secondary and a unified front of silence on the painful, you’ll seek to rightly divide the truth and unify the brokenhearted.

Because if Christ is The Truth — then where there isn’t Truth, there isn’t Christ. Why ever be afraid of the Truth?

Because if you’re at peace in Christ, you fight injustice.

And Son?

Real Manhood means you take responsibility for your body.

A woman’s immodesty is never an excuse for a man’s irresponsibility. Responsible men — are response-able. This is your job. A woman has her’s. Focus on yours. Real Men don’t focus responsibility on women staying “pure” but on men not pressuring. (Truth is, none of us are pure, Son, and the onus is on you, Son, to pursue holiness.)

Your Dad and I need you to know:

Real Men never pressure but treasure. No one tries to crush a diamond.

Because pressuring a girl? Is blackmail, coercion and repeated robbery attempts. You’re meant to be a man, not the mafia. When you’re pressuring a girl for what you want — is your flag to lean into Jesus who will give you what you need.

The thing is: Real Manhood means you hallow womanhood. A woman isn’t a toy to amuse your lusts, a thing to aggrandize your ego, a trophy to adorn your manhood. A woman is of your rib, who birthed your rib, who cupped your rib, who is meant to be gently cherished at your rib, at your side.

The culture of boys will be boys — means girls will be garbage and you were made for more than this, Son. Your Dad and I believe boys will be godly and boys will be honoring and boys will be humble.

And that teenage boy from youth group, who saw how girls were hurting and violated in shadows and shame, who stood with the wounded because he believed real men of God are men for the hurting?

That brave teenage boy, Son?

He’s now your Dad.

There are more than a few good men, Son.

Real men like their Father — who laid down His life for His daughters.

And as if that’s not enough for you to think on and chew, please listen to a few words from a wise man, Eugene Cho… “The reality is that we cannot do everything but that’s not an excuse to do nothing. DO something you’re passionate and convicted about and do it well. [Because] In Christian vernacular, SOCIAL JUSTICE means to simply LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR; it compels us to know, listen, serve, advocate and care for others–with dignity; It calls us to work for a more just society. So, when people ask, ‘Why do you care so much about justice?’, my answer is simple: ‘It’s because I believe much about the Gospel.’ So, believe in and live for a Gospel–personified not just in propositional truth but personal flesh in Christ–that not only saves but seeks to restore all things back unto the One that ushered forth all that is good and beautiful. Let it be so.”

You tell ’em Eugene.

Let it be so.

Re: To women, young ladies, and girls

I should start off by saying that this blog is for me, my family, my friends, but mostly for me. It’s a running record of thoughts, of growth, and of copious amounts of adorable pictures of my girls. It’s a place where I can unleash the thoughts burbling around in my head, help me stay on track, give an illusion of organization amidst the chaos of our life. This blog is not meant to attract a group or person or persons or anyone for that matter. It’s meant for me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like readers…it gives me an imaginary pat-on-the-back, ego-boost feeling that there are other people like me out there. It’s nice to build a small blogging community of people that you can share ideas with, learn from and teach, and all that stuff. It’s nice. But at the end of the day that doesn’t really matter.

And I guess I’m telling you all this because I got a WordPress notification the other day that someone had commented on one of my posts. Not a regular reader, just somebody who stumbled across a post from earlier this year, I’ve posted it as follows:

jack on February 11, 2013 at 12:39 am said:

Maybe women should care how a man feels about it.

It’s fine to have an all-female echo chamber about how sexual sin is not all that serious, but it is.

I’d rather die single (and I am sure I will) than marry a formerly promiscuous woman. Too many risks. It has nothing to do with forgiveness. It is just that I am not interested. I don’t need to marry that badly, I suppose.

And I don’t want to have to imagine my wife with a dozen previous lovers.

Not interested.

If you’re lost, he was commenting on a post that I entitled “To Women, Young Ladies, and Girls.” You can read it here. I suggest you do, it is good stuff. But to sum it up if you don’t want to take the time, it’s basically a gathering of pieces that question why a woman’s worth and even more importantly, her faith is measured so heavily, if not solely, on her virginity. So much emphasis and focus put on a woman’s abstinence from sexual activity, consensual or not (the “or not” part being another discussion in itself entirely and certainly not any less of one that needs to be explored) and not on the fact that she has been cleansed in Christ’s redeeming power and love. I posted it because I have two daughters, I am a woman, a wife, an ex-girlfriend, I have female friends, colleagues, nieces, cousins, aunts, sisters-in-law, sisters-in-Christ, and even more succinctly, because I am simply a member of humanity. This issue needs to be discussed. Needs to be challenged and brought into the twenty-first century.

And normally, I wouldn’t respond to a comment like that. Normally I would just delete “Jack’s” comment and be on with my day. But for whatever reason, I think it needs an answer. A rebuttal, if not to simply keep the conversation at the forefront so it doesn’t remain shoved in the back behind gay rights or abortion.

I’m not looking for a fight. I never am when I post such material. I’m looking for thoughts, well thought out, well versed and supported in a manner that would fly in a high school debate setting. I’m looking to grow. Myself. Personally. I want to grow and become a better player in humanity, in our world, to beautify all the ugly that we so often just shrug at with a “what can I do?” attitude. I’m tired of that. I’m no activist. Not really a leader, more of a jaded idealist who fully believes that if we all tried to make just one thing a little better real change could come about in a monumental fashion. Me? I’ll start by responding to this one comment.

Jack, 

 I don’t know how you stumbled across my little piece of the blogosphere. I can’t imagine what tags or categories you were browsing to wind up here. Were you looking for a cookie recipe? I have a lot.

I found your comment interesting in which you exemplified the reason behind my posting such an article. Not only did you only focus on you, as a man (I presume), but as a man who sees and values a woman’s worth as if they’re “marriageable.” No comment on a woman’s faith or spirituality, no comment on whether or not God has forgiven her and made her anew in His likeness, but a rather simple statement, a simple judgment that speaks volumes. A woman who has had a sexual experience (of any kind I’m assuming) would never be worthy of a man such as yourself.

Maybe that’s too sweeping. Maybe that statement is unfair. Let’s go back to your comment and break it down.

 Maybe women should care how a man feels about it.

I don’t think that any of the authors argued that women shouldn’t care about how men in their life feel about their sexual experiences but rather that women are judged by society in all avenues—beauty, weight, wealth, etc., and that we, as people, men and women with or without sexual experiences, should focus on how God sees us. That we should trust and believe that our worth is deeply and firmly rooted in his unending love for us and that through accepting his grace we are cleansed of the old, a life paid so many years ago to give sinners (men AND women) the ability “to taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8, NIV). Without that ultimate sacrifice of death on a cross, murderers, liars, adulterers, thieves, the lazy, the greedy, Pharisees, men and women old and young, would not be able to join in relationship with God. We all would be without grace. Without life.

Granted, it’s quite obvious I’m coming from a Christian background which is why those articles ring so true in relevance for me. If you are not, you’ll simply have to bear with me. Hopefully some of what I say will make sense even if you do not prescribe to the same faith system as me.

Simply put, men and women shouldn’t give a shit about what other people think. Rather they should focus their energy, their worth, and their soul on God’s truths. That “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27) and that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

 It’s fine to have an all-female echo chamber about how sexual sin is not all that serious, but it is.

No one ever said that sexual sin is not serious. Sexual sin is indeed a sin. The Apostle Paul summed it up for us when he said, “When you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4: 21-24). After accepting Christ’s grace and love, we choose a new life, we choose to try and strive for a godly life and godly virtues. But remember we “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and not one of us will achieve a life of sinlessness. That’s not even a word it’s so unreal. (Read: unachievable, unattainable, impossible)

No one is encouraging young women and men to go and have sexual relationships as they please, but women are reacting to the double standard that is so firmly cemented across cultures that a woman’s value and worth is based solely on her virginity. A virginity that is trumped as the ultimate way for a woman to prove her faith. A virginity that doesn’t take into account the atrocities that are committed in the name of God, Satan, and man everyday. A woman’s virginity is what makes them godly, proves they love God. That kind of thinking, theology, practice within the church and amongst believers is deeply flawed, rooted in sexist, repressive beliefs that limit the amazing wonder and power of a God of everything. Put simply again, That.IS.wrong. Messed up. Dare I say, unbiblical?

I’d rather die single (and I am sure I will) than marry a formerly promiscuous woman. Too many risks. It has nothing to do with forgiveness. It is just that I am not interested. I don’t need to marry that badly, I suppose. 

Your comment suggests that all women who would identify with what these bloggers write have chosen to be sexually promiscuous. What about the women and girls who have been made to feel they are worthless and abused from trusted family members or friends? What about women and girls that have been violated by others they’ve never met? What about women who aren’t sexually promiscuous but stand in solidarity that this sweeping belief in the Christian circle focuses not on a woman’s worth as a person but as a commodity, a symbol, and forgets the soul of that person—forgets the sanctity of their life?

Too many risks, nothing to do with forgiveness, you’re just not interested…why are you making so many excuses for yourself? It’s your life, your choice how you live it. It’s how you live your life that tells the story of who you are. Are you willing to put yourself out there and take chances, accept grace and the possible condemnation of a world full of imperfect people, in order to reach a few more with the incredible, healing power of a no-strings-attached, forever-loving relationship with Christ? (It seems as though you are more content to judge them back into their closet of shame and unwilling to let him realize themselves fully as the women that God created them to be. Thank God for all of us sinners that you are not St. Peter’s boss. Because I think women who are brave enough to share these paths, the journeys that have brought them from wherever they started to the life that they currently live in Christ should be lauded. Not for their former sins, the sins that were cleansed and forgotten in grace by God, sins that apparently you are not man enough to overcome, but for their bravery to show their weaknesses. To ask for accountability and to edify the church community by strengthening it through wisdom and maturation, who grows by being stagnant and unchallenged?

Besides, no one is asking you to marry them.

They wouldn’t want to marry, nor should they, someone who didn’t believe that marriage is a union in which forgiveness and grace needs to reign in order to bloom. I don’t know everything about marriage but I’m fairly certain that without those two components there would be no love. So instead of staring down women’s perceived sexual impurity, perhaps you should take a peek at the haughtiness in your own heart lest you find yourself judged (Matthew 7:4, Luke 6:42, Psalm 101:5, Proverbs 18:12, Proverbs 21:4).

And I don’t want to have to imagine my wife with a dozen previous lovers.

Not interested.

I don’t want to imagine my husband with a dozen previous lovers either. I’m sure no woman or man would. There’s a reason that sexual relationships were created to exist within the safe confines of marriage, I’m not refuting that and neither are the women who wrote the aggrieved article. What they are refuting is that the church is telling women and girls that their worth, their spirituality is based on “their ability to remain pure,” which inadvertently discounts sexual violence and other such instances that occur within our broken, sinful world.

Sex is awesome. Sex is beautiful. If sex wasn’t so good, it wouldn’t be such an issue, but since it is, I think it’s important that men and women are able to have respectful dialogue concerning it and how our culture of sexualization has overtaken the mainstream and also how we treat our fellow brothers and sisters within the church concerning it as we perpetuate it (purposeful or not).

Do yourself a favor (and women) and listen to Apostle Paul since you seem to be above the fray when it comes to all of us sex crazed women, “I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do” (1 Corinthians 7:7-8).

Sincerely,

Katie

Freaking proud wife, mother, sister, daughter, cousin, sister-in-law, friend, feminist, Christian, jaded ideologist, teacher, mentor, baker, artist, reader, sinner redeemed in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-being grace of God, and unashamed sexual being 

To women, young ladies, and girls

I have been reading Rachel Held Evans’ blog on and off for a year or so now and just recently began following her more closely after she posted this blog about doubt within the Christian’s life. It resonated for many, many reasons, and I have yet to be disappointed in her thought-provoking questions posed throughout her writing.

A few days ago I opened her blog to read the following article. Whatever presumptions you may have after reading the title, please push past them and read through the entire piece. I am not saying that I necessarily agree with everything that she says in this article or in her blog, but I am saying that she’s asking questions that need to be asked. That need to be addressed if the body of Christ wants to continue to share a meaningful and sincere relationship with humanity as a whole. But that last statement, is for another time and another post.

NOTE: I also would encourage you to click on the links included in her blog post as they are also thought-provoking and sincere pieces wrote from fellow female Christians. Ms. Evans certainly is not the only, the first or the last to raise these questions concerning the emphasis placed on virginity in the modern church. 

Do Christians idolize virginity?

Several recent posts from some of favorite bloggers raise this question in powerful ways. I thought today would be a good day to share them, as we continue our series on Sexuality & The Church.

The first is from Elizabeth Esther, who writes:

“It took me a long time to realize I idolized virginity. I kept saying I was just promoting virtue and chastity and purity! Nothing wrong with pushing purity, right? Nothing wrong with Being Good!

Like other Christians, I talked about the “sacrifice” of abstinence. There were princess-themed books about saving our first kiss. Some of us wore purity rings and made pledges to our Daddies not to have sex until we’re married. Ultimately, we implied that a woman’s inherent worth and dignity could be measured by whether or not a man has touched her.

I understand why we do this. Christians are alarmed by what we see as a sexually permissive society. America no longer seems to share our values. This scares us. The less sacred sex seems to the broader culture, the more sacred we insist on making it among fellow Christians.

The intention might be good but over-emphasizing the specialness of virginity has unintended, harmful consequences.

We start by making ridiculous promises to our daughters. We tell them that “sexual purity” is a guarantor of a more intimate married sex life. We tell them that if they “lose” their purity, they will never really get it back. Oh, yes. They can be forgiven. But. You know. They’re damaged goods.

Christians say that the world objectifies women through immodest dress and a permissive sexual ethic. However, by idolizing sexual purity and preoccupying ourselves with female modesty and an emphasis on hyper-purity, Christians actually engage in reverse objectivization. 

Yes, we Christians say, we believe in the inherent dignity of all human life. But we especially believe in it if that human life is virginal, wears a purity ring and bleeds on her wedding night.

This is harmful and, dare I say, idolatrous.Read the full post.The second comes from the always-brilliant Sarah Bessey, who wrote a post for A Deeper Story entitled “I Am Damaged Goods”:

Over the years the messages melded together into the common refrain: “Sarah, your virginity was a gift and you gave it away. You threw away your virtue for a moment of pleasure. You have twisted God’s ideal of sex and love and marriage. You will never be free of your former partners, the boys of your past will haunt your marriage like soul-ties. Your virginity belonged to your future husband. You stole from him. If – if! – you ever get married, you’ll have tremendous baggage to overcome in your marriage, you’ve ruined everything. No one honourable or godly wants to marry you. You are damaged goods, Sarah.”

If true love waits, I heard, then I have been disqualified from true love.

In the face of our sexually-dysfunctional culture, the Church longs to stand as an outpost of God’s ways of love and marriage, purity and wholeness.

And yet we twist that until we treat someone like me – and, according to this research, 80% of you are like me –  as if our value and worth was tied up in our virginity.

We, the majority non-virgins in the myopic purity conversations,  feel like the dirty little secret, the not-as-goods, the easily judged example.  In this clouded swirl of shame, our sexual choices are the barometer of our righteousness and worth. We can’t let any one know, so we keep it quiet, lest any one discover we were not virgins on some mythic wedding night. We don’t want to be the object of disgust or pity or gossip or judgment. And in the silence, our shame – and the lies of the enemy – grow.She concludes:

No matter what that preacher said that day, no matter how many purity balls are thrown with sparkling upper-middle-class extravagance, no matter the purity rings and the purity pledges, no matter the judgemental Gospel-negating rhetoric used with the best of intentions, no matter the “how close is too close?” serious conversations of boundary-marking young Christians, no matter the circumstances of your story, you are not disqualified from life or from joy or from marriage or from your calling or from a healthy and wonderful lifetime of sex because you had – and, heaven forbid, enjoyed – sex before you were married.

Darling, young one burning with shame and hiding in the silence, listen now: Don’t believe that lie. You never were, you never will be, damaged goods.A-freakin’-men is all I have to say to that. You really must read the entire post.

Similarly, Carolyn Custis James recently wrote a piece for the Huffington Post entitled “Why Virginity is Not the Gospel,” to which Dianna Anderson added a helpful critique.

I wrote about my experience with “True Love Waits” in A Year of Biblical Womanhood. As you will notice, this is the context in which the infamous v-word appears!

I signed my first abstinence pledge when I was just fifteen. I’d been invited by some friends to a fall youth rally at the First Baptist Church, and in the fellowship hall one night, the youth leader passed around neon blue and pink postcards that included a form letter to God promising to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. We had only a few minutes to add our signatures, and all my friends were signing theirs, so I used the back of my metal chair to scribble my name across the dotted line before marching to the front of the room to pin my promise to God and my vagina onto a giant corkboard for all to see. The youth leader said he planned to hang the corkboard in the hallway outside the sanctuary so that parents could marvel at the seventy-five abstinence pledges he’d collected that night. It was a pretty cheap way to treat both our bodies and God, come to think of it. Studies suggest that only about 12 percent of us kept our promise.I have a feeling this is going to be a hot topic in the months and years to come, and we will be discussing it at length as part of series, though later in the year.

What do you think? Does the Christian culture idolize virginity? How should our narratives surrounding sex, virginity, and purity change, particularly as they concern women?

Calling all Instagram users

I’m sure most of you have heard the buzz about Instagram’s new terms of service. I’ve been reading and looking to find some answers but I’m still on the fence as to what I will do with my account.

I confess, I am a bit addicted. I like being able to take pictures and make them “arty.” I’m delusional I find it to be a fun and entertaining way to keep in touch with some family and friends that are far away. I prefer it over Twitter indefinitely and indulge my voyeuristic side looking at other moms’ crafts, baking/cooking, and interior decorating. I mean, for pete’s sake, my avatar is an Instagram photo!

However I am NOT comfortable with all the creepers and weirdos, all the sickos and perverts and whoever that role play “adoption” games on Insta. These people steal photos of naive unsuspecting parents that don’t have private accounts and use them in “cyber orphanages” where a virtual baby broker sets up adoptions with role-playing parents. I’m sure some of these people are kids who don’t know better or whose parents don’t know what they’re doing, but nonetheless  it’s freaking creepy. Because of this kind of stuff, I made my account private. I’m absolutely fine with not having a million + followers. I like having the ability to pick and choose who does and does not have access to my photo updates. I like being able to do an “insta background check” on potential “followers.”

These new terms of service? I don’t know know. They’re so vague and so unexplained by Facebook/Instagram that I’m wary of their capabilities. I’ve been poking around, reading articles, the following are just a few that I’ve read through but none of them explicitly contains a thorough statement/explanation from the company/parent company’s stance.

  1. What Instagram’s new terms of service mean for you
  2. How your Instagram photo might end up in an ad
  3. Should you be concerned about Instagram’s new privacy policy?
  4. Instagram’s new terms of service
  5. Instagram says it now has the right to sell your photos
  6. Everyone’s freaking out over Instagram turning users’ photos into ads (even though most grams are already ads)

For that reason, I’ve decided to delete my account until further notice. If it all turns out to be a hoax, so be it. I’d rather be an over-protective, slightly-neurotic, den mother than see mine and my family’s privacy dissolve for the sake of greed and consumerism. Besides, I could always reopen an account later.

If you use Instagram, what are you going to do?

Update: After some dialouge on facebook this morning, I was sent this link: No, Instagram can’t see your photos: what the new terms of service really mean It does clear up some vague information but it still does not address how private account users’ photos will be treated with the new terms of service. Will IG still use my photos so that people I have not approved can access them? 

I’m thankful for…

Day 27: I’m thankful for my home. It’s certainly not the fanciest or the biggest or the newest, but it is ours. It fits my family of four + Moses, the pug, perfectly, and reminds us to be thankful for the things that we have (read: edit our belongings every few months so that we don’t get featured on Hoarders). I’m thankful while it’s not always pristinely clean, it’s a warm and welcoming environment that often smells of something yummy (or not, depending on Nellie’s potty training). I’m thankful that it keeps my children warm and gives them a place to call “home,” a place to feel loved and to call their own.

Our House

Day 28: I’m thankful for Grand Forks. I know, I know. I never thought I’d say that either. But it’s true. I am thankful. I’m thankful that this small city has enabled my family to spend it’s first few years here and the growth its opportunities (and closed doors), its people, and its culture have fostered in us. I’m thankful that we have family near us and that we’ve kept old friends and made new. I’m thankful that my children have great places to go during the day while Dylan and I are at work and school. I’m thankful for the life that we have here (even if the wanderlust bug is never very far away 😉 ).

I’m thankful for…

Day 21: I’m thankful for flowers. Beautiful ones of all kinds of shape and size, smelly and fragrance free, colorful and simplistic, and especially ones like these, that my Dad brought up when they came for Nellie’s birthday. I’m cheap when it comes to “disposable” items like flowers, but truthfully, they’re such a nice reminder that someone loves you and they certainly brighten the cold winter months.

2 dozen pink roses from my Dad for us girls.

Day 22: I’m thankful for Ada’s teacher this year. Ada loves school and I can’t help but think that this correlates somewhat directly to the woman who is in charge of her classroom. And after parent-teacher conferences, I’m even more sure that it’s Teacher Zeljka’s patient firmness that has helped her to hone in her impulsive sensitivity and to grow more and more into the little person that she is.

Day 23: I’m thankful that Thanksgiving, though not as awesome as it could have been, was still pretty darn good. I still was able to see some of my family, and even though I couldn’t make it out to lunch, Dylan still brought me back a plate loaded with stuffing. I had time off with my sickie girls, time to leisurely decorate and prepare for a birthday party, and time to celebrate Nellie’s 2nd year of birth. (Nellie actually turns two this coming week but Dylan will have to work that day 😦 so we celebrated early.) Thanksgiving is still, and will always be, my favorite holiday.

Day 24: I’m thankful that Dylan is a morning person who is willing to drag himself out of bed to get the girls’ started and allot me a couple more minutes of precious sleep wakeful rest.

Day 25: I’m thankful for home videos. I’m not sure that’s what they’re called anymore since most of ours are camera videos and uploaded to YouTube  but nonetheless, I’m thankful that I can look back through them and be reminded of what it was like then. And to be reminded that I am so, so, SO blessed.

Day 26: I’m thankful for Christmas decorations and Christmas music. There will be more about this tomorrow, but just know that the holiday season truly puts me in a festive mood.