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?

#1000

I wrote earlier about reading a book focusing on thanksgiving and grace in life. You can read about it here.

In the book the author accepts a friendly challenge from a friend to record one thousand thanksgivings. One thousand praises in everyday life. It got me to thinking…I should do that. One of my biggest struggles is contentment.

How to be content and thankful is a practice that I have yet to master nor do I think that will be accomplished in any foreseeable future, but I don’t think that should be used as an excuse to not start. So I’m publicly challenging myself to record one thousand blessings and hopefully, will continue on. I know that by doing the same practice won’t necessarily end in the same results, but I also don’t think that it could hurt me either. Some say it takes 21 days to make a new habit, I managed to quit biting my fingernails (mostly), and I certainly think this is more important to mine and my family’s well-being. Although my nails are a pretty mint green right now.

I may or may not share some of these praises with you, some of these blessings. I’ve decided to start today–this weekend in an attempt to find beauty and grace in my everyday life. My attempt to find contentment in all plans laid before me. Who knows where this journey will lead?

Pondering an anniversary

2 Loves

2 Loves…how I miss those chubby chins.

My Facebook feed was blown up yesterday due to a 40th anniversary. I read an article from Eugene Cho: To whom it may concern: Imagine the possibilities. Imagine the life that could be lived out. because of it. I’ve read many articles about it, on it, the whys and why nots for and against it. And I have to be honest with you.

I’m a fence rider.

Not because I don’t believe in the sanctity of life. Not because I don’t believe women shouldn’t have a right to determine what happens to their bodies. Not because I don’t believe that God intended humanity to be filled with beauty and life. Not because I believe that church and state are mostly and should be separated.

Not because I am sinful…or maybe because I am.

But truthfully, where is the argument or at least the point, when at the end of the day both sides are hurting? Woman, baby, families, broken in two by the loss of love? The loss of compassion? The loss of grace?

I’ve been reading a book that my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas, Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. It’s focus on grace, on thanksgiving…I think is a genius answer to the hatred and pain that is felt throughout this argument. It’s exploration of the basis of sin and evil in the world being rooted in our ungrateful hearts, in a lack of thanksgiving. Through these reflections on faith and practice she connects the pieces together a little bit more for me on my own beliefs. Grace. What is grace?

I’m not looking for a debate or a fight or really anything, mostly I’m just shifting through my thoughts. I realize this won’t make sense to some and maybe will to others. As a mother, as a daughter, as an adoptee who doesn’t know her birth parents, as a child of God, and more simply as a player in humanity…I don’t dare to profess I have all the answers. I long for the goodness, the gratefulness that we once had as perfectly created and perfectly seeing, and in that longing I attempt to make a life and a belief that emulates what could have been. What is if we humble ourselves to embrace grace.

Christmas was, Christmas is

Christmas was…

Lovely and well-fed.

Filled with warmth.

Blessed in all ways.

Peaceful and joyous.

Christmas is a reminder of…

The sacrifices given.

The beauty born from healed scars.

The preciousness of life.

The amazing husband that loves me.

The perfection hiding in our imperfection.

I didn’t take many pictures of our week-long whirlwind of Christmassy happenings. Instead, I chose to try to stay in the moment, savoring this holiday and this time together as a family. The regular updates on Sandy Hook splashed across the televisions and on the radio were a morbid, albeit succinct reminder to enjoy the moments given to me with the littles. So I hugged them a little tighter and repressed my disgruntled-too-many-presents-I’m-drowning-in-wrapping-paper attitude a bit longer.

It certainly wasn’t without its bumps and frustrations (and I am infinitely glad that Dylan is as patient as he is). I’ve struggled with whether or not to write about it, it doesn’t seem very Christmassy or seasonally joyful but I think that, just in case there’s one other person like me out there, that I will. Because as much as I love Christmas and as much as I loved spending it with my family, this Christmas was probably the hardest one I’ve weathered through. Because this was the first holiday that I have celebrated post miscarriage.

I hate that word.

Every gift that I opened, every token of love and goodwill from family and friends, was a brief reminder in itself. No onesies, no blue or pink, no congratulations, no baby toys or books or invasive questions or belly touching. Just piles and piles of dolls, play foods, and coloring books. All of which I am very thankful for, and yet, my heart can’t help but twinge a bit at the lack of joy over the coming of a new life. We would’ve been telling people now about the pregnancy. Maybe even Pinteresting a clever manner in which to reveal the news. Facebook posts, blog posts, Instagram and Twitter…

All silent. Save for a Happy Christmas here and there.

I’m struggling to find words to explain my general dourness this Christmas season, which hopefully had enough Santa facade for my girls not to notice, so that I can continue on this journey of healing and growth. But it’s hard. Way.Hard. Hard enough that I’ve been mulling over this post for quite some time and still, after hours of deliberation, are at a loss for words. Which is a strange realization since I felt that I had dealt with the majority of my grief earlier this fall upon hearing the news. Apparently not. Apparently it takes time and continues to hit you in waves days, months, years? afterwards. So much grief for a life never fully realized.

And though I know this matters naught to you, know Mommy and Daddy love and miss you in the fullest sense. Happy Christmas little one.

Finally Up to Date!

And finally I am up to date with the blog! Our lives are pretty simple right now…well…as simple as it can be with a toddler, a newborn, a post-pregnant mother and a student during finals week.

Dylan and I spent the morning at Caribou with Nellie. Him studying chemistry and I updating the good ole blog. I even dared to breastfeed Nellie there and things went off without a hitch. Hurray for hooter hiders and multiple layers of clothing to hide any trace of post-pregnancy flesh!
Ada has been attending daycare faithfully throughout this new life change and I think that’s helped her keep some form of normalcy quite a bit. Dylan and I have been trying our best to let her know that we still love her as much and that she cannot be replaced by a baby. She seems to be adapting to her big sister roll with relish. She loves to hold her, sing songs to her, pet her head and “share” her toys…although blankets are still another story. Luckily Nellie doesn’t care which satin or fluffy or cotton blankie she uses…yet.
And Moses as usual could care less. Feed him, pet him and let him sleep in front of the air vents and he’s as happy as a clam.
I’m looking forward to a laid-back Christmas this year. Nellie is going to be Baby Jesus for two of Hope’s Christmas Eve programs–we’ll see how that goes. Then we’ll be spending time with the Dachtlers and Suttons. Christmas day we’ll venture down to Fergus and see my parents and spend Sunday celebrating with the Beithon side. Lots of pictures to come I’m sure. 🙂
Happy holidays everyone!!

Day Six: Someone that Inspires Me

Day Six: Someone that Inspires Me
Mother Teresa is my standby-look-up-to-emulate-strive-to-be-human-hero. She always has been, she always will be.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Mother Teresa
How could you not love her? We certainly didn’t always agree on views/politics, but that doesn’t mean she’s someone unworthy of emulating. Obviously Jesus trumps Teresa (I think she would only agree), but I wholeheartedly think He supported and applauded her commitment to life, love and Christianity.
But back to the subject, pick someone that inspires me… I am cheesy enough to say that my daughter inspires me. She is the most beautiful thing I have ever created (with a little help). She is one of the greatest blessings I have ever received and continue to receive. She stokes the passion behind what I do and want to accomplish. She is my precociously haphazard teacher, my exasperation and my joy. Besides the peace that I have found in Christ, besides the godly example I strive after in his perfect life and my amazing husband, she is simply the best that I have experienced.
I want to be better in everything–to be more educated, to be more polished, wise, confidant, in love, communicate freely…all because I want her to have the best opportunities and experiences possible. I want for her everything that I had, didn’t have and want to have. If that’s not an inspiration for life, I don’t know what is.
It’s hard to imagine that Dylan and I will soon be welcoming another little girl as perfect as Ada into the world (we’re T-minus 69 days today). All of our fears, hopes and joys bundled into a perfect, tiny little Nellie and this process will begin again; this process of inspiration and fierce love. I know it will and yet, it’s so hard to imagine that it will be the same, an equal amount to what we feel for Ada. How is that possible? Thank God I don’t need all the answers, just the capacity and willingness to accept God’s gifts in my life.
So thank you Ada for loving me unconditionally and childishly; for inspiring me to continue to try living out Mother Teresa’s legacy and most importantly, to strive for a deeper Christ-like life.

Happy Belated Easter!

Happy belated Easter everyone!

Hope you all had a joyous time celebrating friends, family and the death and resurrection of our Christ!!

A New Child

RELAX.

We promise we’re not pregnant.
Nope. Nada. Nil.
Definitely.Not.In.Any.Way.
(Knock on wood.)

What we mean by “a new child” is that we have decided to sponsor another child through Compassion International. We already have a little girl whose name is Dayana. She is almost eight years old and lives in Ecuador with her family. She likes to play with her dolls, go for bike rides, run around and play games with her friends. We were given the opportunity to sponsor her two and a half years ago and have enjoyed corresponding and getting to know her since. What prompted our hearts to re-evaluate our financial situation and to make this decision was after attending our Pastor’s presentation on his Compassion International visit to his family’s sponsored child in Ethiopia. While we had already been considering it for some time, this was the final tug on our hearts and we knew that we couldn’t put it off any longer.

No, we are not rich by any means. Yes, we do get more support from our family than we probably deserve and we are blessed everyday by their generosity and love. But, with that said, we also are not so poor that we cannot share. C.S. Lewis once said “Nothing that you have not given away will truly be yours.” This applies to so many things in life, friendship, love, respect…and certainly it does not seclude whatever monetary wealth we may have. Christ called us to love one another, to reach out to the poor and to love the unlovable in whatever way we could. For those of us blessed to be living in such a country of luxury (whatever your thoughts on recession might be), there are always a few things that can be forgone.

For us it’s cutting back on entertainment (eating out once costs just as much as our support a month for Dayana; thus not eating out twice in one month will pay for two children to receive adequate food, education and love). It’s something easy for us to cut back on, we like to cook and ultimately believe that by establishing a routine of cooking in and dining together, we will build a strong family.

There are so many things that we do not need but seem to “have to have.” “It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish,” lamented Mother Teresa. And nothing could be more true.

This is not a post to brag about how “righteous” and “selfless” we are. It’s not to guilt anyone into sponsoring a child, that is a personal decision one that we hope would be made with thorough deliberation and deep commitment. This isn’t a paid for plug for Compassion International (it’s entirely free). What it is is just a reflection of how God is working in our lives.

Thus, without further ado…our new child is five-year-old Jose, also from Ecuador. We will be receiving a packet in the mail sometime in the near future containing more information about him and we are eager to get to know him in the same manner as Dayana.

“When a person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”
Mother Teresa