Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 5.3.2014

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This week’s five things all focus in some way on women.  Enjoy!

  1. This article from Salon.com discussing the problem with using the term “women problem” to describe a cultural failure of including, promoting, or appreciating women.

  2. This story from my new friend Diana, on being a woman in seminary.

  3. This feature story at The Atlantic (from last week) entitled The Confidence Gap.

  4. This New York Post article on the outstanding character and accomplishments of the woman George Clooney is lucky enough to be engaged to.

  5. This list written by my friend Hannah about five things she learned growing up in a fundamentalist household.  This post was so popular that it broke her blog, so that’s a good sign, right?  Right.

So, what awesome things did you read this week?

What I’m Into, April 2014

Wow, April.  I can’t believe it’s over and I can’t believe we survived.  After nearly seven months of winter isolation, I got out and about A LOT in April.  It was incredibly fun.

What I’ve been up to:

We spent a weekend in Washington, DC, with our very best friends.  It was so lovely to see them all and to celebrate birthdays and first-zoo-trips and drink coffee at my favorite coffee place ever.

DC

The following weekend I rented a car and drove to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the Festival of Faith and Writing.  It was weird and awkward and wonderful.  I met some really lovely new friends!

ffw dinner group!

Kristin from halfwaytonormal.com // Brenna from brennadambrosio.com // Emily from emmillerwrites.com // Anne from modernmrsdarcy.com

I loved so many of the sessions, but I really started feeling my writerliness in a session with Peter Orner (a non-practicing lawyer who is an MFA professor in San Fran and is from my city!).  His novel Love and Shame and Love is set in Chicago and is waiting for me to finish up a few other things I’m reading.  I’m so excited to read it.

Love and Shame and Love, Peter Orner

Love and Shame and Love, Peter Orner

Sometime that week we also made it to our first Cubs game at Wrigley Field.  The next weekend was Easter Sunday, and we spent the holiday with my friend Brenna and her lovely family.  One of her three daughters sat in my lap all day (except for the parts where she was throwing up everywhere) and H and I both felt like we belonged.  Brenna set a lovely table as well:

Easter Meal

Because we spent so much time out of town this month, it’s been hard to do all of the things I really love to do — such as staying at home in my jammies and watching lots of television.  I’ve seen the season finale of Scandal but I’m still a little behind on all of my shows (which is probably good since the season finales leave me with nothing left to watch all summer!  I should probably try to spread them out a bit, but I’m pretty sure I won’t.)

Instead of a subject-by-subject breakdown of the month, here are a few random things I’ve loved this month:

  1. Dark Chocolate Chili Almond KIND bars.  Holy cow they are delicious and only 200 calories.
  2. Eating healthy(ish).  It’s a work in progress.

  3. Kappa Delta.  The Illinois-Wisconsin State Day was last weekend and it was so fun to attend!  I’d never been to a state day before and I didn’t know how adorable it would be to see my Kappa Delta sisters celebrate 50+ years of sorority membership.  They are a d o r a b l e.  And also, smart and kind and funny and stylish.  And even more – seriously, there’s more – they had Midwestern accents.  I nearly died of happiness.

  4. Body shop bath products.  On a related note, I won a raffle for coconut-scented Bodyshop products and they. are. awesome.  I’ve never been one to spend a lot of money on fancy shower/bath stuff, but my showers have been quite lovely this past week!

  5. Pitch Perfect.  I mean, I think that movie is on TV every single day, but the thing is: it is hilarious every single time.

6.  FUMC at the Chicago Temple.  I have so many notes in my journal and things to write about how lovely it has been, but without getting into all of that, it’s just basically the greatest church I’ve ever gone to.  I can really focus on the sermons and enjoy the services because I’m not counting grammatical or historical or factual errors or constantly crossing and uncrossing my legs to distract myself from completely inappropriate comments about poverty, race, or gender.**  It’s really what I’ve been needing and I’m so glad we found it.

  1. Edward Gorey.  Do you guys know about Edward Gorey?  I totally didn’t, and then I went to this Goreyesque event and I fell totally and completely in love!  Apparently Goreyesque is a celebration of funny morbid creative things, like a short story written from the perspective of a recently deceased seventeen year old who makes fun of his sister’s vapid friend while watching his sister wrestle with the details of his suicide.  Which was sad and hilarious.

8.  Me.  Is that weird to say?  This month I’m totally into me.  I’m into goal setting, I’m into believing in myself, I’m into my writing and my blogging and my spiritual development.  I’m also into my brain: I went to a lawyer training event one afternoon and for a few hours remembered how fun it is to think about the law and how much I love doing that.  So that’s cool, right?  I’m kind of into me right now, and working hard to take care of my whole self (brain/heart/body).

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for you this month!  How are things in your world, and what have you been loving this month?  Leave me a note here or join the link-up over at Leigh Kramer’s blog.

What I'm Into Link-up LeighKramer.com

What I’m Into Link-up
LeighKramer.com

** I’m not blaming other churches for my inability to fit in, but I am excited to have found a congregation where I can be myself.  If you’d like to let me know that feeling these feelings or thinking these thoughts in church is my fault and not the church’s fault I’m happy to receive that feedback below.  Thanks in advance.  ;)

This is about religion. Sorry, not sorry.

Here’s the thing. I don’t really believe the Bible is inerrant the way a lot of people do. And I know that writing that down and publishing it on the internet means some people who share my faith tradition will lose respect for me, but I need to start there. I think that reading the Bible brings me closer to God, and helps me to know him better — but reading the Bible also reminds me of the ways people have [mis-]used Scripture to silence me and to silence my brothers and sisters on this planet.

It’s a complicated relationship, for sure. I want it to be less complicated. I want Scripture to bring only joy and not pain, but that just isn’t where I am right now. I haven’t been there for a few years, actually. Life is a journey, and I do not believe we are called to check all the boxes while shutting down our brains. Faith shouldn’t have to be a mental power struggle, where we refuse to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings and confusions and doubts and scream out an unthinking “YES” to all the things they say we have to believe. For me, right now, it’s an ongoing effort to seek God’s love and pursue relationship. To follow Jesus. To find the arc of redemption moving in our world and to follow it, and to hope for the redemption that we believe will come. So, while I’m often frustrated or unsure about where I stand with the Bible, I trust that if I am seeking God and trying to follow Jesus, that one day I’ll be in a better place with the Bible too.

I still think I’m a Christian.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I spend every minute of every day seeking God and trying to reconcile with the Scriptures. Because I don’t. Reconciliation with Scripture and communities of faith is something I think about often and hope for. Scripture and faith communities are intrinsically linked to my childhood and my understanding of the world. But I’m not necessarily doing that full-time right now. I think about a lot of other things too.

I still think I’m a Christian.

The internet makes it harder. I read blog posts and articles and comments saying that if you interpret differently the meaning or application of one or two sentences of a certain translation of the Bible, you are throwing out the entire gospel narrative and you can’t be a Christian anymore. And I’m stunned because, holy cow, I wish it was only one or two sentences that I didn’t interpret literally. I wish it were that simple.

This week, with all of the World Vision USA hullabaloo, I read your words, and I felt even more that I didn’t belong. Here I am: I grew up in your world, I followed all your rules, I learned all of your Bible verses, I went to your camps and I graduated from your college, and I don’t belong. I still think I’m a Christian, but if I told you the truth, would you agree? Would you say that it’s okay to be different, to not understand the world in the same way as everyone else, that God is bigger than our doubts and our questions? I’ve heard that before.

But I wonder sometimes — is God only bigger than my doubts and questions because I am a straight, white, married female?

I want to hear you say that the world is full of nuance. I want to hear you say that we can all work with people, live in community with people, shop at grocery stores with people and bake cakes for people who believe different things than we do. I want to hear you say that you don’t believe everyone who thinks differently than you about the world, or religion, or the Bible deserves to live in constant fear of poverty because they cannot find or keep employment. I want to hear you say that each of us finds God and faith on a different timeline, and that it isn’t up to us to save people. That we pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to move within us and our neighbors, and that we love each other while we wait.

Instead, I’ve been hearing you say that a Christian organization that decides to stop excluding certain groups of people from its hiring pool has thrown away the Gospel. The entire Gospel. Now that they’ve changed their minds, I’m hearing you rejoice, slapping hands and taking credit for standing your ground. For the Gospel. And I wonder, what would you say about me, if you knew my doubts and struggles?

Well, now you know.

Happy New Year, Again

I haven’t significantly cut my long brown hair since the Saturday before the bar exam, July 2011. On that day, my hairdresser Allegra told me what a big haircut can mean. Her mother practices Buddhism, and believes the cutting of hair is a release for the whole body: As our bodies process stress and worry, those feelings grow out of our skin into our hair, hanging around with us each day. When we’ve been walking through life wearing our past stresses and worries long enough, when we’re ready for a change in our lives and our souls, cutting off our hair removes the residue of that long battle and helps us to enter into that new stage.

I have been to a few yoga classes this month, but I don’t know anything about Buddhism so I cannot tell you whether any of that is true. I’m not entirely sure any Buddhists out there would read this and identify with that statement in any way. It could be completely misunderstood or misconstrued by me during a bar exam-induced frenzy. But, I’m a believer in the power of a good haircut and let me tell you why: After three years of law school, three months of intense studying, and one significant haircut, I passed the bar exam with no real worry of failure and entered into a new stage of life.

That new stage, which is now my old stage, was rocky and beautiful. I made some deep and lasting friendships, learned a lot, and became much more grounded in who I am professionally and personally. But it was hard. It’s been almost three years now since that last big haircut, and there were a few months in there where I only went to work because I didn’t want to pay a fine for departing before my fellowship was complete, and where I only went to parties when I couldn’t think of a socially acceptable excuse to break the commitment. There were absolutely some days where the veil I wore was too thin, and my actual heartbreak or frustration was clearly visible to those who I like to pretend cannot see the dark edges of my humanity. And, I stuck my foot boldly into my mouth more times than I would like to remember. (I do continue to remember these moments, which is perhaps the worst part of this whole thing called living. Each time I say something horribly ill-timed or inappropriate or unthinking I remember it. Even years later it comes back to me in a disappointing memory which no haircut has as of yet been able to erase.)

Over the last month, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting a serious cut. My hair was just too long, and it was starting to get in the way of things. All of those feelings and memories just didn’t fit onto my shoulders along with the sweater and scarf and coat and hood necessary to survive this winter. I never felt comfortable with my hair sticking out from under a hat and pointing every which way while I walked down Michigan Avenue toward my new office in my new city. In my apartment my hair was straight and lovely, but each time I headed outside toward something new the wind would blow it into tangles and knots. It was time to let go of the baggage and free up some room for warmth and possibility.

I thought that my twenty-eighth birthday would be the time for the big cut, but beginning the day we returned from Las Vegas and until just a few days ago I was so sick I could barely leave the apartment, much less choose a hairstyle and find a stylist. I kept delaying the cut, although I knew how much I wanted it and how ready I was for the change.

This past week, as my cough reduced and my health improved, I found a stylist on Yelp.com and made the appointment. I didn’t realize at the time that my cut was scheduled for the second day of the Chinese New Year celebration, considered to be the first day of the new year, but how perfectly timed it was. As many celebrate the new year by cleaning house to sweep away ill-fortune and make room for good luck (thank you, Wikipedia), I too am chopping off the last three years and starting fresh.

I don’t have a picture for you now. This change wasn’t just about fashion or beauty, it was about being more fully alive, about diving in and seeing what would happen. And so before returning to the surface, I wanted to take the time to share this process. But don’t worry, glamour shots will be headed your way soon. Happy New Year, again. Let’s do something awesome this year.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 1.31.2014

I really love writing these five-things posts each week — at times, they’ve been the most consistent form of blogging in this space and I enjoy taking a few minutes each Friday to reflect over the prior week’s intellectual encounters. However, I’m not sure they are hitting the mark for you. Stats don’t tell me much about what you like and don’t like on the blog, but they do tell me what you click — and the links I post just aren’t getting clicked very often.

I’m not going to stop writing these weekly wrap-ups, but I’m more than happy to try some new things or add new elements to keep them fresh and hold your interest. Do you wish there were more funny posts, more photos or pinterest pins, more recipes? Do you like having quotes included here with each article? Any topics you’d like to see less of? Let me know.

Five 2

And now, let’s get to it:

One.   Abby Norman tells the story of Atlanta’s snowpocalypse, in The Lamest Roadtrip Ever: A Victim of Atlanta’s Snowpocalypse Tells All.

I used to mock my fellow southern-city dwellers too. I didn’t know that I didn’t know until I drove home Wednesday morning pretending I was a bob sled driver. It was the only way I could stay sane while maneuvering my 1996 Camry on what looked exactly like the outdoor skating rink just after the Zamboni went for a little spin. It turns out I am awesome at bobsled driving and totally deserve a gold medal.

Two.   “Women Are Not Permitted To Teach” – But Real Life Just Won’t Cooperate, by Kristen at Wordgazer’s Words.

You would think, if God really intended women to be limited to teaching their Bible insights and spiritual knowledge only to other women and to children, that the teaching of women would in all practicality be incapable of truly benefiting or lifting up men– at least, not in those venues where women are apparently forbidden. Shouldn’t God limit the abilities of women to what would suit their proper sphere? Shouldn’t men find, since God never intended women to have anything spiritually authoritative to teach men in a church setting, that they as men don’t actually learn anything valuable when they listen in on women teaching in church?

And yet the Father seems to keep on creating women who are so creative, intelligent and capable that they reach, almost despite themselves, outside that supposed proper sphere. And throughout Christian history, when it comes to divine giftings, the Holy Spirit has just never seemed willing to obey the rules.

Three.   Rachel Held Evans’ post Privilege and the Pill.

[A] woman who cannot afford birth control is more likely to consider herself unable to afford a pregnancy, which makes terminating that pregnancy seem like the best, most affordable option. And the cycle continues.

So those who oppose coverage of birth control based on their religious or pro-life convictions must take into consideration the fact that lack of coverage may actually lead to more abortions. And we must remember that shrugging off birth control as something people should be able to easily pay for on their own betrays some of our own economic privilege in this conversation.

And then, please take a look at this “response” post by First Things contributors, twisting Rachel’s attempt at a difficult discussion into something honestly a little nasty. We can do better.

Screaming and shouting ridiculous, mean things to scare away reasoned dialogue is not an effective means of discourse.

Four.   Quasi-related to #3, an amicus brief has been filed in the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Wood cases challenging the constitutionality of RFRA altogether. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s posted over at SCOTUSblog and it’s on my list of things to read this weekend. The historical grey areas and give-and-take of religious freedom in America are so interesting.  A vigorous reasoned discussion about the limits of our constitutional protections is far superior in every way to, let’s say it again, screaming and shouting ridiculous things. Check your sources, people.

“The intense passions about religious freedom and women’s reproductive health in this case have obscured the issue that should be decided before this Court reaches the merits: RFRA is unconstitutional,” the brief argued. The filing represents the views of seven organizations, telling the Court that they “are united in their concern that RFRA endangers the vulnerable — who otherwise would be protected by the neutral, generally applicable laws of this country.”

Five.   And to wrap us up this week, something that is honestly SO OUT THERE and a little crazy, but really made me think: Penelope Trunk’s 13 ways to keep your debt from holding you back. And it’s not what you think.

Don’t stop taking risks – the price is too high.

One of the most common regrets people have at the end of their life is that they didn’t take risks. They played it too safe. Most of your life will include some form of debt. If you put off doing what you want because of your debt you are way more likely to have regrets than if you pay your debt off really slowly, or if you never even get it paid off.

Quick tech question for you blogging experts:  Wordpress has begun auto-numbering my lists in some way where it says 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. instead of 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.  I’ve been spelling out the numbers as a quick fix but that is obviously not really helping.  If you know what is going on can you help me out?  Thanks!!

Conversations Lately

Question: You’re moving to Chicago?!?! Are you so excited?!?! What will you do there?!?!

Answer: So excited! Chicago is amazing and we cannot wait. I’m still figuring out how my work will change but we have faith it will all work out! But, we are a little worried about the winters up there!

Truth:

I have asked for a transfer to the Chicago office of my agency, but I don’t know if it will be granted, or when I will know whether it will be granted, or even what sort of job I would be doing if it were granted.

We have relocation benefits that kick in 45 days before H’s start date. That means we cannot use our provided realtor until June 20th.

It’s hard to really feel much of anything about all of this, much less excited. I have a cold and I want to hide away and drink tea and watch movies and read good books, but I keep going to a job I don’t know how long I will have, and don’t know how long I want to keep. We have things to do and decisions to make, but none of them can be done or made yet.

“Having faith” feels shallow and empty when I say it. What is it we should have faith in, exactly? I have faith that life is hard but beautiful. I have faith that sorrow and pain and sin can be redeemed by powerful love.

But faith that I’ll have a perfect house in a perfect neighborhood with a perfect job? I’m not sure that’s exactly how this faith thing works. And I’m pretty sure that even if it is how it works, that’s not the kind of faith I have right now.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week

Five Awesome Things I Read This Week copy

1.  A solid plan for becoming a better speaker:  Peter Sims on the Harvard Business Review (HBR) Blog Network, in Going from “Suck to Non-Suck”.
 
2.  Acknowledging the weird way Christianity sounds when you don’t dig a bit deeper:  Emily Maynard from Emily Is Speaking Up, in The Gospel Party.
 
3. Potentially the most delicious beverage I’ve seen since Christmas:  Jessica from How Sweet it Is and the Blood Orange Sangria.  YUM.
 
4.  If you’re in the Christian blogging network and haven’t read this post yet this week, get to it:  Sarah Bessey, in In Which I Am Damaged Goods FYI:  She is not actually damaged goods.  And neither are you.
 
5.  And finally, an amazing guest blog by Danielle Vermeer on J.R. Goudeau’s Love is What You Do:  Educated Beyond My Level of ObedienceFull disclosure here — I’m supposed to be writing a guest blog for J.R. on this subject in just a few weeks, and I’m so scared to do it poorly that I haven’t been able to start typing yet!  So hopefully I’ll summon up my courage and finish thinking the subject through and turn the notes in my journal into something interesting by Presidents Day.  Hopefully. 
 
 

When others are hurting

When one of my advisees received shocking news of a death in her immediate family on Saturday evening, my heart broke with her pain and sadness. When the next day another advisee lost another close family member, I wasn’t sure how to prepare to meet the chapter’s needs. I pulled out my resource kit to reexamine how to talk about religion in a sorority where members are of different faiths (or no faiths at all) — to be supportive and honest and encourage them to lean on each other as they searched for meaning in this difficult time.

In my heart (or is it your head where you compose a prayer before you pray it? Are pastors praying when they write the prayers or only when they read them out loud during service?) I planned a bit of what I could say, if it was appropriate or needed, not knowing if it would be tears or nerves or short tempers or friendship that would be the most apparent when I entered their environment.

We don’t all call out to God by the same name — and some of us do not believe that he is there at all. We come from different backgrounds, different faith communities and different families, and we don’t have all the answers. Today, it feels a bit like we don’t have any answers. But together, we believe that sacrificial love — that true friendship and caring for our neighbors and reaching out to those around us — can cover the darkness. That in the end, love conquers evil. And so, while we don’t understand why these things happen, we look to each other for friendship and compassion as we move forward together.

My thoughts weren’t needed. I didn’t have to make any sort of religiously sensitive, diversity-aware faith statements or offer any deep counsel. The women were focused on their tasks at hand and depending on each other for support. They are hanging in there, and they certainly didn’t need me to make any kind of grand moral statement on the meaning of the world.

And so I came home, glad. I didn’t really think I had the emotional intelligence to handle that conversation anyway.

And then a distant friend of my family, a woman only one year older than me, was hit head-on by another driver, while she was in the car with her mother, her three-year-old daughter, and her two-week-old son. Her mother passed away during surgery, she has been in and out of surgery multiple times already, her two-week-old son has a broken femur, and her three-year-old daughter is barely hanging on. Her daughter may not be with us through the night.

And my heart is broken again. How is all of this possible? How can so much darkness fill this world?

And I still don’t know why. But I am convinced, certain, that sacrificial love conquers evil, and that true friendship is our way of exhibiting this love in our dark and stormy world. And so, I tell myself this again, hoping it will take. I worked so hard to get the words right for everyone else, but it looks like it was always meant for me.

Megan, my dear, our heartfelt prayers are with you and yours. You are loved.

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