The Elusive Inclusive Religious Community

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We were more than halfway done with the 7 hour stretch from far eastern Washington back to our hometown. It had been a whirlwind 24 hours moving Boof’s grandma into a more extensive level of assisted living. Two adults, a toddler, and a dog, had made the trip last minute, and now were were sitting in a nostalgic Mexican restaurant in my college town.

It was 3pm and in came several different groups, all dressed up. Skirts, dresses, ties and suits for the men. Even the children were dressed nicely, which made me eyeball Potamus in his dirty Spiderman t-shirt and monster truck rainboots. Sunday. Church. Yeah.

I lived in that small town. My life revolved around Sunday service and Tuesday night college ministry and Wednesday night volunteer for junior high youth group. I led Bible Study on Thursday nights (and sometimes Monday nights), and went to Mass with friends when I could squeeze it in. When I lived in the dorms I did a nightly prayer night with other people in my hall, and I regularly went on weekend retreats and mission trips. It was like brushing my teeth, going to class, or getting something to eat at the dining hall. A rhythm of life.

The experience of sitting next to a table full of small town church goers sparked a long conversation the rest of the two hour drive home. We feel so torn, both of us on how to proceed in the spiritual community. It’s not the first time we’ve had this conversation, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But we’re stuck in this place of not knowing, not deciding, and not knowing what to do about it. Do we go to the church we feel sort of connected to, but the average age is 75? Do we go to the church down the road where Boof grew up and there’s a thriving Sunday school, but fundamentally in a theology that I don’t agree with? Do we find somewhere else? Do we not do anything?

What I came away from the conversation, was an ability to articulate my desire to not send Potamus to a Sunday school that teaches things I don’t agree with. Boof said that his parents chose that church because it had a children’s ministry, even if they didn’t necessarily feel comfortable with it. And my pushback was…WHY? Why am I, as a mom, who makes many other sacrifices, going to sacrifice the next 10/15/20 years going weekly to a religious service with people that I don’t fundamentally feel accepted by or agree with? Do MY needs as a person not matter as much as the theoretical ‘needs’ of my child? AND, do I send my child to a place where he will make friends and form relationships on a principle or set of beliefs that I fundamentally don’t believe in anymore?

It’s food for thought, for sure. Because Boof has less angst, and certainly less of a ‘bad experience’ from growing up religious, he sees that it will be a fun place for him to get to have some stories and make friends. But my argument is that he can have friends and hear stories at our house, or daycare, or a different church, or different club activity, or different religious institution altogether. I don’t think that my needs as woman/wife/mom should be shoved under the rug to fit a 1950’s ideal of an every week Sunday experience.

And yet, I feel torn, because I want to believe in something. I want Potamus to believe in something. I miss the routine and the community and the fitting in I felt when I was in college, when I was apart of that faith routine. I miss believing in something that felt right and good and connected me to others. I read articles and see that there are other people writing about being young parents with children who want a community where questions are valued and their kids can be themselves and they can be themselves, but then I go to church and don’t find that these places actually exist (except, like I mentioned at the beginning, in congregations with quite older members). Why is this such a frustration?!

Recipe for a long-lasting marriage?

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This past weekend we left the hot side of the state and headed over the mountains to the HOT! side of the state for a little family reunion of sorts. Normally these family reunions are held in campground in Wenatchee, where my cousins spent every summer as kids, but this year it was a different occasion, so we held it at my parent’s/grandparent’s house, which happen to be next door to each other. We were celebrating my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary, which should be a carefree time of celebration, but instead, emotions and tensions ran high…at least in my own mind and heart.

My relationship to my family is complicated for sure, but the thing that is hardest for me is the very black/white nature of their discussions on things, which is heavily influenced by their brand of evangelical Christianity. And I am not the kind of person that believes things I’m told without putting up a pretty good fight. I might be considered skeptical at best, cynical at worst. And I have the mouth of  a sailor and runaway facial expressions that let people know just exactly how much they’re annoying me without me even having to open my mouth. Maybe I sound like I’m bragging, but it’s not something I’m proud of, really. My sister’s laid back go-with-the-flow personality is one that I covet.

At any rate, this lovely celebration to highlight the fact that my grandparent’s have stayed married for 60 years was quite triggering for me. Not because I don’t think they’ve done an amazing job of staying married, but because in the daily life my family members seem to idolize this couple as the BE ALL END ALL of how relationships should be. And truthfully, on the actually 60th wedding anniversary day, I think it’s great to highlight the beautiful, the good, the inspiring. It’s in all the moments before and after that I wish my family could live in a little more of the grey. Because…honestly…my grandparents aren’t saints.

So when my aunt is giving her speech about how wonderful they are, I can’t help but sputter in my mind” BUT MY GRANDPA BEAT MY MOM WHEN SHE WAS A KID! BUT MY GRANDPA STRANGLED ME WHEN I WAS A KID AND MY DAD HAD TO PULL HIM OFF MY 3 YEAR OLD BODY! HE IS NOT A SAINT!” Of course I didn’t shout that out at the dinner table. But I wanted to. Because I think the celebration of 60 years should show that 60 years is not some fairytale. That it’s two very human people who hurt others, hurt themselves, loved others, made mistakes, tried hard, cried a lot, burned a lot of toast, spent a lot of time feeling depressed, maybe had some benign neglect, worked too hard, didn’t work hard enough…the list could go on and on and on (probably for 60 years, ya know?). They are not perfect. They are examples of a value of sticking with it when maybe they could have (or should have?) broken up years ago. I can celebrate with them that they have made it, that they chose a life and have lived in it, but I can’t pretend that their choice, that their personalities and struggles, have not also negatively affected people, you know? My grandma did pipe up with some of the more difficult things, saying stuff like “it was really hard for many years,” and that they are more softer now, more in love than ever before, so it was nice to have some acknowledgment of the imperfections on her part, but I wish that the others could really acknowledge that, too.

But the kicker was, my other aunt giving a speech, that said, “the only marriages that last 60 years are ones that are built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.” and I stopped listening at that point. Because, really? REALLY? I can give my aunt that my grandparent’s marriage is ‘built on Christ,’ because I have seen them actively use prayer and Bible study and going to church to inform their values and ways of relating to each other. But to dismiss the couples ALL AROUND THE WORLD who stay married for years and years and years and Jesus Christ has nothing to do with it.

Sigh.

I kept all of this mostly to myself, though I did make some snide remarks to my sister and her boyfriend under my breath. And spent a few hours late into the night processing my emotions with Boof about the whole thing. Because maybe I’m feeling unconsciously judged by their rules for how to make a marriage last. Certainly it has worked for my grandparents, but my marriage with Boof feels incredibly strong, even though the way we are operating within the context of what is even defined as marriage is so different than my grandparents. And even, maybe, our definition of what a good marriage is, does not include 60 years, if it is going to hurt one or the other or cause more conflict than splitting up. But here were are, only a mere 6 years into the whole matrimony thing, and I feel like we can make it to 60 without trampling on other people in the process. Openness. Acceptance. Encouragement of the individual. Playfulness. Protection. Listening. Sharing. Working through Jealousy. Celebrating the differences. Laughter.

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Thoughts dear bloggy readers: what is your recipe for a long lasting marriage?

Ten Thousand Angels

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…the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. Mathew 14: 15-21
 

I’m overwhelmed. This morning as I was scrolling through Twitter, I cam across a tweet stating that last week 10,000 sponsorships were dropped at World Vision.

Wait, let me stop using shiny language: 10,000 kids weren’t going to get their next meal, or school day’s education, or clean water because  evangelical “Christians” didn’t like a policy change. Ten thousand. Let that sink in for a second. A news story goes out, and in less than 48 hours is reversed, because 10,000 kids weren’t going to get fed. As a former-evangelical-Christian I want to ask…where was the prayer? I mean, I grew up praying over almost every decision (not quite like “God should I buy this prom dress?” but close), and so I want to fucking know:

WHY DIDN’T THOSE DUMBASSES FUCKING PRAY FOR FIVE MINUTES ABOUT WHETHER THEY SHOULD FEED A STARVING CHILD OR GO ON SOME POLITICAL POWER TRIP?

Whoa, sorry, got carried away there for a second.

But seriously.

In the passage above, Jesus is out, doing his thing and some people get hungry. You know what he does? He feeds them. 5,000 of them (just the men, clearly more with children and women). Last week the evangelical ‘disciples’ turned away TWICE AS MANY legitimately hungry children because of a political agenda. Jesus didn’t ask questions, he just fed them. The disciples wanted the families to buy their own damn dinner, but Jesus didn’t turn them away, and somehow multiplied a small amount of food into enough to feed all of them.

I’m angry.

Part of me feels relief that I no longer subscribe to evangelicalism, that I’m one of the ones who has left (escaped?). But another part of me is sad that the reason I don’t is because of how shittily their doing this whole Christlike thing. Because there was a time, and I miss it greatly, where I sat in the pews with good people and felt love and peace and a longing to follow and belong forever. I’m not in that place anymore, but have resonated with blogs like this on those who stay in the church.

I hope those children got their sponsorships back, and that they didn’t go hungry. I hope those people who pulled their sponsorships can face themselves in the mirror each morning.  I hope that I can figure out how to be more than just angry about this whole mess.

 
 

Coming Out in Light of the World Vision Kerfuffle

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With my students I talk a lot about how we, I think as a culture, tend to define our things but what we are not, or what we don’t like. We might say things like, “I’m a Democrat,” but it feels more strongly like “I’m not a Republican, and therefore I have chosen the other box, default Democrat.”

But today, in light of the shitty week I had with the roller coaster of World Vision emotions (that you can read about how it started here and ended up here and some cool thoughts about it here), I thought I’d break a rule and tell you all:

I’m not straight.

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I fully recognize that I live in a world with a hetero normative story line. I am presumed straight by those who meet me, and ‘lie by omission’ when I don’t ‘set the record straight.” Because I am married to a man, I am assumed to be straight. Just like because I don’t have a wheelchair, or guide dog, I am assumed to be able-bodied (rather than looking at the invisible disability of chronic mental illness). This idea of ‘passing,’ is something I am familiar with on a daily basis, and get the privilege of choosing if, and when, and to whom I come out, if I do at all.

So last week I had drinks with a friend, and as we were discussing the World Vision drama, and all my frustration behind the big flip-flop, I said…

“I was telling Boof this, that people don’t realize. I have his protection in church. I am accepted and loved and welcomed with open arms because of him. They see me the way they want to see me, as a straight, married woman with a child. I am the walking white woman stereotype, in their minds. But without my husband, if I was on my own, and openly dating, or was married to a woman they would think very very differently of me. So this decision of theirs, it could affect me. I could not be hired because of who I am. “

And his response:

“Are you a lesbian?”

It wasn’t a question with judgment attached. He had been tracking my conversation and, since he’s in a relationship with a woman who identified as lesbian, seemed to be trying to understand. And that’s when I got quiet. Because no, I know I’m not a lesbian. I know that like I know I’m not black. But the question brought back memories, of being in high school, or after college with no boyfriend or ‘marriage prospects,’ and my sister saying to me ‘mom and dad think you’re a lesbian.” It brought back memories of being called ‘Sir’ when I had short hair and was shopping in the mall, or gasp, even wearing a bikini. I said, “no, I’m not a lesbian, but I’m not straight.”

My parents are deeply religious fundamentalists, and were probably part of the group of evangelicals that would take their money away from starving African children to prove a point. They will probably never know me beyond what they see on the surface. But I balk at the labels, because straight doesn’t fit, and lesbian doesn’t fit, and bisexual doesn’t fit either. A student once asked me if I was pansexual and I said I don’t know, because I’ve never been attracted to someone who’s trans. It’s not that I don’t like labels because they feel too labelly, it’s that I haven’t yet figured out what label actually fits. It’s like shopping for jeans, do any of them REALLY make my butt look good? I mean, for realz yo…

But what I do know, is that I’m not straight.

That’s the closest I can get to a label. NotStraight. Unless I tell you about energy. And how I am attracted to energies that complement my own, and that often means women. And sometimes men. And sometimes I’m not attracted to anyone at all (except of course my husband, right?). I’m married, to a man. If I weren’t married to him, I might be married to a woman. Or I might not be married at all. I might date a man, or a woman, or nobody. I don’t know. I don’t plan who I’m attracted to, or who ends up clicking with, and it goes beyond genitals, though those are fun aren’t they?

People who know me intimately will not be surprised by this news. It might give some an ‘aha’ to explain the previously unexplained. Some already know, like my graduate school peeps and some coworkers who I share openly with because it’s come up in conversation. This isn’t some big coming out manifesto, as I don’t even know what I would be coming out to or for, other than the fact that the World Vision kerfuffle affected me deeply. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of feeling like without Boof I would be less of a person in Christian circles.

Monday Morning

 

Daredevil Evil Genius ‘Baby’

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I gave birth to a daredevil evil genius child.

While at yoga on Saturday, I get a text from Boof with this picture. Apparently he turned his back for a few minutes (my guess is he was in the bathroom) and he heard a lot of rustling in the living room…came out to find this scene before him.

Whoa, gotta get a leash for that kid, right?

Is the drive to climb things a leftover evolutionary trait from our life in jungles past? Because I don’t really see any necessity to it’s use today, except to get cookies off the counter. And he’s taken to climbing the changing table, and the TV console and possibly soon the bookshelf. I know that my biggest task is going to be to teach him how to climb DOWN so that he’s remotely safe and self-sufficient, but I really don’t like him doing the high chair balancing act on our coffee table.

There are some people in my life that are pretty judgey about my ‘letting’ Potamus climb on things. These people aren’t parents, though, and have no idea the exhaustion that would result in constantly telling him ‘no’ and making him sit still like a doll. And Facebook trolls friends on Boof’s profile had the nerve to write, in response to Boof’s caption ‘hopefully he will use his genius brain for good and not evil,”

“He will use his brain for both…..but a wise parent will instruct him how to shun evil and cling to what is good! This is not evil, however (unless he was told not to do this). It was brilliant!”

Which makes me want to throw up in my mouth a lot  little, and rage against the whole Christian machine because seriously? The sort of Christian drivel being spewed in Facebook posts makes me want to a) give up Facebook altogether, or b) teach Potamus about EVERY DAMN RELIGION OUT THERE out of spite. He’s not climbing onto the coffee table because of original sin motherfuckers.

But I digress.

How do I channel my son’s physical need to climb in a healthy and positive way? We don’t have the resources yet to buy a Big Toy climbing thing for the backyard, and the weather is crummyish outside, so going to the park after work (or on the weekend) isn’t as much of an option. When it’s nice, like yesterday, we took him (sans coat even) and he tromped down the sidewalk and hit things with a big stick. He’s definitely a physical kid and I want him to be encouraged to be physical in a way that’s safe for him!

What crazy dangerous cool things have your kids done that made your hair turn a little bit gray? How do you handle douchecanoe comments from friends and family members?

Church & The Working Mother

Most Christian women I know are stay-at-home mothers, or, at most, work-from-home mothers with lots of support from nearby family or in-home nanny/babysitters. I have seen them write posts on Facebook and talk about how lovely going to church is on Sunday as a family, and all the support they’ve felt from their congregation in being mothers. And, that’s where I get a little jealous, or at best, have mixed emotions.

Because that hasn’t been my experience, at all. Getting to church on Sunday is hard, and has happened a handful of times since Potamus was born almost 2 years ago. It was easy when he was a super-new infant, and I could nurse in the pew when he got fussy, or sway in the pews to the “contemporary” (aka 90’s maranatha songs) worship music. But since he’s been mobile, we haven’t been back more than 3 times.

I was talking to a friend about it this week, and she said “church is hard for working mothers. My kid is in daycare 5 days a week, I want to be with him, not pass him off to someone else.” And that, in a nutshell, summed up everything I had been saying in private to Boof, and feeling, since the beginning. Because it is hard for my kid to adjust to his daycare, which he now goes 4 days a week. For him to adjust to a new nursery provider, for 1.5 hours on Sunday seems a bit much. How many weeks would he cry in this new place before he got used to it? And would it be worth it?

And while I only work 4 days a week, those precious family moments in the morning, are some of my favorite. We’ve tried church recently and found that either one or both of us would have to leave with Potamus about half way through the service. Not only do I struggle with feeling whether or not church is relevant to my life anyway, I wonder, is it really relevant to my life as a mother? Because the church we attend doesn’t have many children, so to dump Potamus off with the 17 year old nursery assistant seems less-than-ideal. It makes me wonder, are churches using an outdated model of childcare as a relief for mothers who are with their children all week?

It feels like we’re doing it wrong. Like this division of children and adults is outdated and doesn’t serve parents who don’t see their children all week. I don’t have answers, but watching football, in our jammies, in the sunshine-filled comfort of our own home, with our child playing at our feet, feels much more ‘spiritual’ than singing songs and worrying if Potamus is doing okay in the church version of daycare. Ya know?

In Mathew 19:4, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  I just don’t feel like Jesus meant let children come to church and then hide away in a back room chewing on legos and doing flannel board. Maybe I’m wrong, but that doesn’t seem to be what this verse is saying…

Thoughts? Do you go to church or another religious service? Are children welcome in the service or in their own separate place?

…and nothing but the truth

Yesterday my bestie loaned me a book that her grandpa recommended: Proof of Heaven by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander. It was a fascinating story chronicling  his decline into a week-long brain-dead coma caused by bacterial meningitis, where he has a near death experience. There was even an adoption theme woven throughout (where the guardian he meets in ‘heaven’ turns out later to be his biological sister that had died right before he reunited with his biological family. It was fascinating to read such a skeptical doctor, with such a great knowledge of medicine and the brain, write about this very personal and beautiful near death experience where he became enlightened spiritually. Super cool.

Except it is all bullshit.

Well, maybe not all, but I gobbled the book up in a few hours the afternoon sunshine, and was so excited that I googled the book. And found a link to an article debunking the whole thing. Well, maybe not debunking the actuality of the experience on the other side, but certainly debunking all the medical aspects of the story. Like how the doctor didn’t have the most rarest form of bacterial meningitis, that according to the doctor (who treated him) it was a medically induced coma and that he was actually conscious during that week, though in a very hallucinatory state.

Ouch.

Of course this back and forth ‘is it true, is it not true?’ thoughts come on the week of Zen pen where were are exploring writing from our soul. To be honest, my soul feels so torn by all of the spiritual mumbo jumbo about. I want to believe…in something…anything. No, I don’t want to believe in something, I want something to be true. I want to have confidence in something. I sometimes even want to believe in the Christian stories that  I was taught as a kid/teenager/young adult. Something. I feel like  I’m floating in the abyss of unbelief, a hungry ghost of a soul, wailing and looking for truth that doesn’t exist.

Except, at one time, that truth existed for me. While not a coma-induced near death experience, I once, at such a low point that I thought of death as an option, had a vision/hallucination/psychotic break(?) where I saw Jesus (at least that’s who I perceived him to be, it was a glowing white robed shining figure) who picked me up in his hand, out of a dark hole, and put me on a grassy field. I wasn’t depressed after that for almost 2 years. It was because of that experience that I was baptized as a Christian and started to attend church regularly. While I’m not proud of my fundie evangelical years, that experience was beautiful and authentic and clearly what I needed in that moment of time.

But here I am now, 12 years later, and not even sure God exists, let alone the whole religion based off some dude who lived a bunch of years ago. It feels like a ‘dark night of the soul,’ if I were to couch it in religious terms, though at this point…what’s a soul anyway?

I want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I’m tired of feeling lied to, tricked, hoodwinked, duped, and confused.

 

Body Modification & Naked Gardening

wrist dermal anchor piercing

wrist dermal anchor piercing

I don’t know if I’m fully a member of the body modification community ( I certainly don’t feel badass enough for that), this week I did become the proud new owner of two dainty wrist piercings (known as microdermal anchors). One centered on each wrist. They’ll be my 6th and 7th piercing to date, if I include my now-defunct tongue piercing. My ears are the ones I care for the least. My nose is the one that I love and identify with the most, and my navel piercing feels so nostalgic…a reminder of my first real rebellion against my parents (whey have this fundamentalist belief against body piercings/tattoos). I was 18, in high school, and got it pierced a few hours before a track meet. Yes, I was crazy.

Why get my wrists pierced you might ask? Well, I’ve been wanting a new piercing for awhile (last one was my nose and it happened in 2003, so it’s been awhile) and I’m not a huge fan of earrings and I already have my navel and I don’t need any sparkles on my face detracting from my lovely nose hoop. When I saw these on that bridesmaids wrists I thought “oh, that is so beautiful” and “it’s just like Jesus piercings.” When I explained that to Boof he cocked his eyebrow, but whatever, I can have a crazy strange emotional reaction to something and roll with it. I didn’t get them to be like Jesus, per se, but this strange emotional connection of piercings on a wrist done in a way that turns pain into beauty just felt…fitting somehow. Like I can look down and feel this meditative quality to my jewelry in a way that a bracelet couldn’t provide.

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As you can see, only a few days old and they seem to be healing quite nicely. I’m worried about their longevity, picking such an easily bumped place (especially with a rambunctious 18 month old toddler), but I have high hopes that they’ll last for at least 6-9 months. The piercer said average is about that long, but his friend has had hers for 8 years. We’ll see!

So, I’m the body mod mama who lets her son garden naked on a sunny day.

Blue Like Jazz

the book

In college I was assigned the book Blue Like Jazz: Non-religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality for an internship that I was doing at my local church. This book was life-changing on so many levels. The way that Don wrote about his ever shifting views of faith and religion and relating to religous people was exactly what I needed during that time of my life. It felt so real, expressing so many things that I had felt, but hadn’t been able to put into words. Characters said things like:

“And I found Jesus very disturbing, very straightforward. He wasn’t diplomatic, and yet I felt like if I met Him, He would really like me. Don, I can’t explain how freeing that was, to realize that if I met Jesus, He would like me. I never felt like that about some of the Christians on the radio. I always thought if I met those people they would yell at me. But it wasn’t like that with Jesus.”

And that was radical and true and made me feel like I wasn’t crazy in this whole trying to relate to God and The Church and Christians and the fucked-upness of so much of my fundamentalist brainwashing that took place as a child/teenager.

And it wasn’t just about the topic of spirituality, it was the way in which Don wrote about his life, weaving childhood stories in with random musings, current happenings, and future speculations. I heard, a few years after the book was popular, that some people who had loved the book were suddenly very angry with Don because they learned that his “memoir” wasn’t 100% fact, that he had, in fact, taken some creative license with his storytelling. But that made it all the more beautiful to me. That there can be truth in a story even if it’s not 100% historically accurate (which, coincidentally, is how I now view The Bible). Don’s way of writing truth, without it being historically dry facts was life-giving and has, to this day, still influenced my own writing style (at least, in my mind it has). Like, it made this whole concept of blogging for the world okay.

 

So, when I saw, on Netflix, that Blue Like Jazz had been made into an indie movie I jumped at the chance to watch it. I was really curious about how they would translate random life stories and musings into a cohesive plotline. I was excited to see the characters (Don, and Penny, and Tony the Beat Poet) all on screen. While some people go into movies with a critical eye, trying to always compare the book version to the movie, I mostly went in as a curious individual, wanting to feel connected to something larger. I haven’t read the book since 2004, so I have mostly forgotten the actual words, and am left with how the book made me feel. I guess I wanted to feel something, and so I picked this movie.

And, sadly, I was disappointed. You knew that was coming, right? I know it was a hard storyline to make into a movie, though I think there were things that could have been added, and things that could have been left out, that would have made it better. I almost think titling it Blue Like Jazz made this pressure for it to live up to a bestselling book, and this pressure for it to follow a storyline from the book, rather than trying to get to the essence of the feeling or big takeaways that people felt from reading the book. I think it got close, a couple of times, but didn’t do it justice.

For example, the character of Penny becomes a Christian in the book, and is really transformational to a lot of people simply because they see her being a loving, kind, compassionate person. She loves God and people see it. In the movie Penny’s character is good and compassionate, but there’s something about her delivery that seems like she’s just trying to be a good person, and while it’s nice, it’s not inspirational. It almost comes off as a little goody-two-shoes, which was not how the character was in the book. I think they tried in the movie, but I think it didn’t quite measure up. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t inspiring.

There were other aspects, like trying to make Don’s family life more chaotic than it appeared in the book, or focusing on other, in my opinion, more trivial details, which made me think…if Donald Miller had simply set out to create a film on non-religous thoughts on Christians spirituality (the subtitle to his book), what would it have looked like? Even if nothing but the theme had been the same, would the film have done something more for my heart?

After watching the film I started reading the book again. It read like an old friend, and I found myself laughing and nodding in parts. But I also noticed that time had done something strange to my memory. Maybe it’s because I’m in a different place, now, but I didn’t find myself as moved by it as before. I’m hoping it means that the words have just sunk into my soul and aren’t life-changing radical as before, but I’m mostly worried that I’m jaded and cynical and curmudgeony. I stopped halfway and wonder, maybe it’s better if I just leave the memory in the past? It also made me wonder…what am I searching for, longing for, that isn’t being filled by re-visiting old spiritual favorites or new indie films on the same topics? What am I looking for?

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: a book review

After reading and loving AJ Jacob’s hilarious book, The Year of Living Biblically, where a guy decides to try and take a literal approach to the Bible and follow it for an entire year, I came across the female companion book in A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. I downloaded it on Kindle, preparing to have a few evening laughs in bed while Potamus was sleeping. What I found, was myself crying (or tearing up) more often than I laughed!

Where AJ Jacobs set out to show the absurdity of taking everything in the Bible completely literally (even carrying pebbles in his pocket to stone people), Rachel’s attempt was to discover or re-discover different aspects of her evangelical faith, while also solidifying beliefs that she already had, that perhaps, differ from traditional ideas of what “biblical womanhood,” means. I love books like this because I, by nature, love a good social experiment. I’ve gone a whole year without buying clothes, wearing shoes, shaving, and stints at vegetarianism or not buying books. I’ve learned things in every social experiment that I’ve done, so I loved this premise and eagerly set out to read her experience.

Rather than laughing my way through the book, I found myself actually learning, which is refreshing. It feels like books and things like this that sneak up on me, are stealthy ways that God is teaching me, since I’m not actively searching anything out, and feel almost opposed to really trying to dive into any Christian-spiritual reading program. Rachel does many experiements throughout the year: learning to sew, growing her hair out, covering her head in church, staying outside in a tent when on her period and calling her husband Master. It was

One of the things that I learned, was about the Proverbs 31 woman, which was of great interest to me having studied it in college. All of us giggling juniors read through the proverb each week, and then focused ourselves on one aspect of the woman, because, after all, it was a guidepost, check-list for us to follow! And then, I read this book and learned that Proverbs 31 was a poem, that was sung TO women, by the men in their life. The Proverbs 31 women, in Hebrew eshet chayil, is translated as “woman of valor,” and is the ancient version of “you go girl!” She corresponded with a rabbi’s wife in Israel who said, “my husband sings the Proverbs 31 poem to me. It’s special because I know that no matter what I do or don’t do, he praises me for blessing the family with energy and creativity. All women can do that in their won way. I bet you do as well.”

Wow.
That kind of information would have been EXCELLENT  to know in college, instead of trying to bend over backward to try and do everything listed in that proverb. Instead, being myself and allowing my husband to say “you go girl!” Thankfully, Boof is all about supporting my life choices and thinks its excellent that I work and raise Potamus and have time for friends. But I could have saved myself a few years of feeling guilty and terrible for “sucking” at living up to the spiritual ideal…just like I could never live up to the Cosmo cover-model.

All in all, I would recommend this book to any of my girlfriends.